Bell Works Aims to Change The Entire Tech EcoSystem in the East Coast

A while back, I wrote an article on Business Insider about how startups are getting tired of New York City’s overcrowded and overpriced co – working spaces. With a lack of viable options, most startups are stuck either staying in NYC, moving Brooklyn, or even going to Jersey City. However, all of those options are not that much cheaper than staying in NYC and more importantly, they do not help the startup create a certain vibe and culture with their workspace. I recently got a tour of a MAJOR effort going on at the old Bell Labs in Holmdel, New Jersey that should spark some major tech investments in New Jersey. As a former startup founder who worked in the heart of Silicon Valley, I know the value of having a big open workspace with a campus environment. Many startups today in Silicon Valley struggle between wanting to have their startups located in the heart of Silicon Valley (Redwood City, Menlo Park, Cupertino, etc.) vs. having their startup move into the city center of San Francisco. If New York City is the San Francisco of tech in the east coast, then the new Bell Works in Holmdel, NJ is trying to become the Silicon Valley of the east coast. To understand what is going on at Bell Works, let’s begin with its history.

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New Jersey Business Environment Ranks Low

Jay Bhatti @ Daily Record

Jay Bhatti, a Marlboro resident, has a good vantage point. He owns a venture capital company called BrandProject and has offices at Bell Works in Holmdel, New York City, Seattle and Toronto. He has urged New Jersey to take a page from Washington, home to companies like Microsoft and Amazon, to revive its high-tech engine.

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Why WPEngine Is My New Favorite Hosting Provider and You Should Never use 1and1

In my career, I have had the opportunity to work with some of the biggest companies in the world. From brands like Exxon to Dell, I have built and hosted wordpress sites that need to be highly secure, highly scalable and very reliable.

Last year, due to the failures of 1and1 (where I had hosted many sites), I had to find another provider.  For many years, 1and1 was a good option. They were affordable, easy to setup and had decent support.  But like many tech firms, they fell behind the times.  Their support got worse, their systems did not keep up with the latest technologies and worst of all, they did not take the steps needed to keep up.  I know this cycle too well.  I even gave a TED talk on how the topic that you can watch here:


The final straw for me was when my sites all crashed at once and 1and1 could not figure out why.  They tried their best to blame me.  Yet, when they realized it was their fault because they had my sites were on some older servers, they said they would escalate the issues to the highest levels possible, yet I actually never heard back from them!  After this, I decided I needed to divorce 1and1.

GoDaddy and other providers proved to be similar to 1and1 in that they were trying to use old systems to host new tech.   I decided I needed to really find the best wordpress host out there.

After testing nearly 10 vendors, I found WPENGINE to be the best one by a mile.

Here are the reasons why:

1 – They only do wordpress hosting.  So they know it inside and out.  In fact, they have a plugin that makes migrating your sites from any other hoster a simple matter of just clicking one button. Imagine that, one click and your done with an entire site migration.

2 – Their support is awesome.  I can reach a live person by chat or phone within minutes usually.  Every support person I spoke with knew their tech

3 – They act as your systems admin.  If your site gets hacked or infected with a virus while on WPENGINE, they will take care of it.  This alone is worth its weight in gold.  As wordpress becomes the defacto standard in CMS, more viruses and hacks will happen to it.

4 – They auto upgrade you to the latest versions and will auto remove plugins that have known holes in them that can be exploited for hacking.

5 – WPENGINE can scale to meet any need.  Given that they use AWS and Google Cloud and their foundation, they can meet any traffic demand.

The extra I pay for WPENGINE is more than made up by the above savings.

In fact, I have moved some of the sites used by the biggest companies in the world over to WPEngine.  That is how confident I am in their system.

If you want to make the switch and get 20% off your entire first year, click the link below:

CLICK HERE TO GET WPENGINE AND SAVE 20%

How US Policy is Forcing 5 million Americans to Reconsider US Citizenship

Imagine if both your parents were born citizens of Canada.  Now, imagine that they moved to the USA over 30 years ago (before you were born) and became US citizens themselves.  You are born in Texas, you have never been to Canada, and don’t have any plans to visit Canada.   You are a red blooded American who can run for President.  However, you get a letter from the Canada Revenue Department telling you that you are a tax cheat and owe Canada money.  If you don’t pay massive penalties and fines for not “paying” your fair share of Canadian taxes over the past dozen years, they will prosecute you as a criminal.  Even worse, they will get access to you bank accounts and financial data in the USA.   If that happened to you, it would make you hate Canada, would it not? Well guess what. That is really happening. Except, the country doing it is not Canada, it’s the USA!

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How Startups Should Deal With Cliff Vesting For Employees

This article was published on Business Insider, click here to see original post.

jump off the cliff

One of the most exciting aspects of joining a startup is getting stock options. It gives you ownership in the company and aligns incentives between management and employees. However, one part of the standard options package causes a lot of debate amongst employees and management. It’s the Cliff.

A typical options vesting package spans four years with a one year cliff. A one year cliff means that you will not get any shares vested until the first anniversary of your start date. At the one year anniversary, you will have 25% of your shares vested. After that, vesting occurs monthly. So, if I’m a startup engineer granted 4,800 shares in my options package, at the one year mark, I get 1,200 shares vested (if I quit or am fired before that date, I get zero). After the one year mark, each month I stay with the company, I get another 100 shares vested (1/48th of the options package).

 

Many startup employees hate the one year cliff. Managers and VCs like it since they think employees will work really hard to make sure that they reach the cliff date. Employees, on the other hand worry that management will let them go just before they reach the cliff. The sad thing is that I have seen this occur at startups. You have an employee who is decent, but not great. Management keeps him or her for nearly a year, but then let’s them go a month before the cliff.

Many managers see this as a way to make sure stock is only going to employees who are worth it. If you’re the employee in this situation, you’re angry. You took the risk of joining a startup and they let you go just weeks or days before the cliff. In most cases, there is not much you can do. It was written in your employment agreement and you signed it.

On the other end of the curve, I have known people who join startups early, but only stay a little over a year and then go join another startup. They call it hedging their bets.They get 25% of their shares vested in the startups they join and hope that one of the startups they worked at makes its big. One person I know worked at Facebook for only a year in 2005 and then quit soon after his cliff date. While he probably made a lot from the shares that had vested, he probably would have made more had he stayed.  But these types think like “Why put all your eggs in one basket, right!” The founders at startups get really worked up when an employee does such a thing. It makes them worry about losing other employees who might now be considering the same.

As you approach the cliff date, you notice a lot of interesting things happen. In some cases, before the cliff date, an employee will go out of their way to work harder to show their value, or stay out of sight and not cause attention to themselves. After the cliff date, management is usually looking at their employee and hoping that they are happy and not considering jumping ship. The time right before and after the cliff is interesting to say the least for a lot of startups.

At my first startup, if we let someone go due to performance before their cliff date, we gave them shares in the company equal to the months they were with us. Thus, we made it as if there was no cliff date at all.  We did this for a few reasons. First, if we let someone go but they tried their best, yet it was just not a good fit, we saw no reason not to make sure they stay aligned with the interests of the company. In fact, some of the people we let go did help us in other ways once they left. I don’t think they would have done this if we did not give them shares. Second, it sends a good message to your current employees that you’re fair in your dealings with the staff.  Furthermore, in some cases where you think the employee is not happy at being let go, you can make the shares conditional on them signing a waiver of some sort. Finally, we just thought it was the right thing to do.

One of the other things we did, and I am sure we were rare in this occasion was to give a 6 month cliff to employees who we really liked and wanted to recruit. It made them feel more comfortable joining us, and gave them the sense that we wanted them long-term. It turned out to be a good recruiting tool to ingrain trust.

In addition to employees, if the founders of a startup raise venture capital, they also go under a vesting schedule imposed by the VCs. For example, if you are two person startup, before venture financing, you each own 50% of the company. After financing, let’s say you get $1m on a $4m pre-money valuation – which means that you gave 20% to VCs, and also create an option pool of 20% for new employees; you now only own 30% of the business. However, you have to earn that 30% over 4 years. Most of the time, if the entrepreneur is experienced in negotiating, they can ask for credit on their vesting for the months they were working in the concept prior to financing, and also waive any cliff in their stock. In this example, by just raising $1m, each founder basically went from owning 50% outright, to owning less than 1% outright and having to earn the rest of it back!

I have seen the founder of one very well know startup get kicked out by the VCs with only a year of vesting under his belt. He went from owning 100% of the company when he started to being fired and only owning about 1% after dilution from other rounds of funding and the fact that he did not get through his vesting cycle.  As more people look to join startups or do startups, it’s important for both founders and employees to understand the various triggers in their stock options agreement.

One thing I do recommend to founders who do not plan to raise VC capital, is to put yourselves on a self-imposed vesting schedule. How many stories have you heard about one founder leaving early but getting the rewards of the other founders work and effort.  Only because they both signed up as equal partners from the beginning. A good recent example is Paul Allen, where in his new book he talks about how Bill Gates tried to take away his stake in the company, since Gates thought Allen was no longer worthy of those shares due to lack of time in the office (a result of illness and other interests). If each founder of a self-funded startup has to earn their equity, it can save a lot of potential issues down the road, and also give each founder the feeling that everyone is motivated to earn their equity.  In closing:

To people looking to join a startup – Remember that joining a startup is a lot about trust and relationship. You’ll have to be at the startup for some time in order to get all your shares. It’s important that you join a company that not only has great potential as a business, but one that also has a management team you can trust and get along with for the long haul.

To founders taking venture capital – Almost all VCs will ask you to go on a vesting schedule. Their biggest fear is writing you a big check and then one of the founders jumping ship early with a lot of equity. Make sure that the VCs vision of your company is aligned with your vision. If you have doubts about your VC at the honeymoon phase (when they give you capital), imagine what might occur when things are not going so well!  If you have been working on your start-up for some time before raising a round of capital, then make sure to ask for credit on the months you have already put into the business.

To Founders NOT raising venture capital – If two people are coming together to form a company and they are lucky enough to not need outside financing, it’s still important to make sure all the founders feel that everyone earned their fair share.  Put yourselves on a vesting schedule. For example, each founder would earn 1/48th of their equity in the company over a 4 year period. This makes sense to a lot of founder and helps align long-term interests.

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THE FUTURE OF BING: Microsoft’s Next Big Partnerships

This article was written by Jay Bhatti and published on Business Insider – Click here to view.

 

My last article regarding Bing’s partnership with Kayak resulted in several emails asking who Bing might partner with next.  It’s an interesting question and one that merits thoughtful consideration.

Let’s go back a few years, when Bing was officially launched. On May 28, 2009, Microsoft launched Bing and Steve Ballmer declared it the decision engine. In the press release, Microsoft specifically called out Travel, Shopping, Local and Health as verticals where they wanted to simplify the task for consumers.

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Why Did Google Breakup With My Website?

When it comes to relationships on the web, there are none as one sided as the one between Google and your website.  Google can decide at anytime to rank your site higher, lower, or remove it all together from its entire index.

Google’s rankings have helped some small e-commerce merchants grow to heights they never imagined, and in other cases, it has caused businesses to go bankrupt!

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Does the iPad deliver?

As one of the more anticipated events in the tech community, Apple’s latest invention did not disappoint. In officially unveiling the new iPad, Steve Jobs took on the Amazon Kindle and once again raised the bar for its competitors. While pundits have criticized the iPad for lacking a true identity (and they are certainly right to an extent), similar to the iPhone, the iPad should encourage further innovation and will impact multiple industries. Taking a closer look at the iPad strictly as an e-reader, it is an interesting product that has advantages and disadvantages over the Kindle.

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How Bad is Microsoft About Product Quality

Microsoft recently added Bing Local. A direct competitor to Google Local Business Listings.    However, check out the business claiming page on Bing today:

https://ssl.bing.com/listings/ListingCenter.aspx

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As a former Microsoft Product Manager, it pains me to no end to see how poor Microsoft performs on delivering quality products.

Spreadsheets won’t change the world but leaders will

Issue date: 12/3/01   – PDF | Link

This article was written by Jay Bhatti on 12/03/2001 for the Wharton School

It was still a few years before World War II. General Douglas MacArthur was a pretty popular man. Given his status, the executives at JP Morgan offered him a very high level position at the bank. One that would have made him very rich and amongst the most high-class people in New York City. His wife at the time (he later divorced her!) was constantly egging him on to take the job. She was, after all, very keen on being associated with the elite and having the best that life had to offer – in short, she was tired of living on a military salary. Yet, in a stunning move, General MacArthur turned down this golden position. When asked why, he simply said, “Bankers don’t make history.” So what happened to General MacArthur after that bad career move? He went on to lead the Pacific Fleet to victory in WWII, and, in short, made history. In October 1944 the world watched as he dramatically liberated the Philippines from Japanese control. On September 2, 1945, he presided over the Japanese surrender on board the U.S.S. Missouri, bringing an end to World War II. In the next five and a half years, as Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers in Japan, MacArthur and his staff helped a devastated Japan rebuild itself, institute a democratic government, and chart a course that has made it one of the world’s leading industrial powers. While his decision to ding JPMorgan may have been surprising at the time, one thing is clear: Douglas MacArthur fulfilled his self-imposed destiny of becoming one of history’s greatest men.

Now the point of the story is not to encourage Wharton MBAs to join the Navy, but rather to debate about what our underlying mission is as an institution. Is it to create spreadsheet monkeys and consulting goons? Or is it to help develop the future leaders of society?

I cannot count how many times I have heard the following quote “I don’t want to major in Finance, but I am at Wharton, and it would look bad if I did not have some solid NPV skills!”

If you look at the past 100 years of human history, what have been the attributes that have had the greatest impact on society? I would say that leadership, entrepreneurship, and innovation have by far been the factors that most shaped the world we live in today. Should it not make sense that we as a leading institution of higher education focus our energies on these very things? I am not suggesting that we eliminate all the finance and quant courses at Wharton. What I am suggesting is that we place a greater emphasis on those classes and programs that would best equip students to lead, innovate, and create.

For example, instead of having math camp for two weeks at pre-term, would it not be more valuable to have a week long class that discusses what is meant by Wharton leadership? Maybe we can have discussions/sessions with some of the remarkable leaders that have come from Wharton and how they impacted society?

Hey, I know this sounds fluffy, but if students can more closely align their passions with what they do with most of their time, don’t you think that they will be better leaders? I mean, if you are really passionate about public service, and instead you go and work for an I-bank, would you wake up in the morning excited about going to work? From day one at this school, the focus of the school should be to find out what each student is most passionate about and then work with the student to prepare him/her to become the best they can be in their respective field! Place a stronger emphasis on classes that discuss leadership (with the right professors!), put into place stronger programs that would make more students consider entrepreneurship, and foster a spirit of innovation and risk taking in every class. Have more joint-programs/classes with the engineering school to allow MBA students to find out what is really happening in the world of technology and science. For example, the first computer in the world was made here, but did any Wharton MBA take advantage of this? FYI, the engineering school is doing some really cool research on nanotechnology. Maybe you should pay a visit.

In my “Seminar on Leadership” classes this semester, we had the opportunity to have an hour-long chat session with Dean Harker. In this session, Dean Harker stressed the point of Wharton moving to the next level. He mentioned that since the early 1980’s, Wharton’s mission was to be #1. Having accomplished that, he said the next challenge was to change the culture of the school: to move away from the rankings, to more closely focus on becoming the best learning institution in the world, to make the alumni and students more connected with each other, and to develop leaders who represent the Wharton style of leadership. It is time for the school to go back to what it was created to do: “To help develop leaders in professional, community, and personal character.” Part of this effort requires us to place less of an emphaisis on the calculator and more on the human element of the equation. After all, you manage a calculator, but you lead people.

I am willing to bet my bottom dollar that the people who will have the most impact on this world in the next 100 years will be those that can lead with passion, take huge risks, create new enterprises, and understand that innovation is the engine that moves society. These are the attributes that the school needs to develop in its students. Let’s focus our energies on this and not as much on the quant classes (save them for the undergrads). In short, Wharton should work harder to develop 800-pound gorillas and not spreadsheet monkeys.