We did it!

Holy shit! The entrepreneurial journey is a crazy one. <insert generic platitude about ups and downs, yada, yada>. It’s now public that Follett Higher Education Group has acquired Valore Inc. Official presser here.

Lots to celebrate and reflect on, but damn it feels good to reach a milestone like this. So many people contributed to this, it’s impossible to list them all.

success
I can definitely vouch that this comic I saw a few years ago couldn’t be more true.

The team will be integrated into the B2B Wholesale division in the days and months ahead, but maintain our offices in Boston. We will continue to deliver on our existing marketplace strategy, but now we’ll have the benefits of the scale and distribution that Follett brings to the table.

Onward!

Implementing scrum for non-software teams

When we hired a new CTO at Valore, we rolled out agile/scrum with our product and engineering teams. We had been in the waterfall dark ages. We predictably experienced every bad outcomes one could expect from a misaligned development process. It took some time for the team to understand it, get comfortable with it, and realize the many benefits of it.

A sampling of the many benefits we have experienced from adopting scrum include: Continue reading “Implementing scrum for non-software teams”

Accessibility

The World Health Organization estimates that 15% of the world population is disabled.¬†After the initial shock about that statistic sets in (that is a lot more than I expected), you may ask why I’m writing about it.

People with disabilities are on the web every day, trying to use your product, just like their non-disabled peers. However, I’m willing to bet that accessibility is an afterthought as you design and build. That does not make you a bad person. Far from it. It just makes you unaware. Unaware that you are ignoring a significant number of users who may find your site, who may want to signup for your site or even pay you money. Your particular user base may over or under index, but even if a conservative estimate is just 5%, you should address this issue. Imagine if your dev team told you they would no longer support a browser that accounted for 5-10% of your traffic? Seems crazy, I know. That is effectively what you are doing when you ignore accessibility on your site. Continue reading “Accessibility”

Practice

Why don’t business people practice?

Sports and business are always compared. There are an endless number of analogies used every day – teams, winning and losing, star players, competitors, etc. The comparison holds, for the most part. Except for practice. Why?

Athletes at all levels know that they will need to practice their ass off to compete at the highest level. Daily images of athletes toiling away in the anonymity of the empty practice field or gym stream over the airwaves to us. Continue reading “Practice”

Major Release – eCommerce Upgrade

Our new e-commerce site at http://www.valorebooks.com is finally live! First, a huge shout out to the team that worked on it for getting it over the starting line (see what I did right there).

We are quite far along in our agile implementation at this point. Me and my team always think about how to draft the user stories, and break them down into more discreet value.

This project was different. Continue reading “Major Release – eCommerce Upgrade”

coach.me

Sticking to new habits is always hard.

I often find myself experimenting with new tactics to increase my learning, be more productive, or save myself time (so I can focus on more ‘valuable’ things). Notice, I don’t call them habits. They are deliberately experiments. Only if they prove effective would I continue to focus on them, ultimately with the goal to make them habits. Continue reading “coach.me”

Speed Wins

Speed wins. Startup dogma. Silicon Valley platitude. Dangerous concept that is often misinterpreted.

People hear this and think of the mythological developer who just cranks things out at lightning speed. Working all night, crushing Red Bulls, typing furiously on their laptop. There are many flaws with that mythology that I won’t go into here, but why does that mythology exist in the first place?¬†Business executives are the reason. Continue reading “Speed Wins”

Unbundled Consumers in Education

Education is a tough market to crack. One of the big reasons that it is such a difficult market is the unbundled consumer.

Typically, a consumer does one of three things. They decide to buy something, they then buy that thing, and they then consume that thing. Many things go into each one of those steps, but they are pretty universal. A customer will take them, in whatever form, and the result will drive a business forward.

Not in education. The consumer is unbundled.

In the example of textbooks, in particular. The professor decides what is bought. Financial aid (i.e. the government) or parents then pay for the book. Finally, the student is the one who consumes the book.

This is one of the big reasons why trade books have reached majority market share, while textbooks have lagged dramatically in the transition. Tech savvy entrepreneurs have pursued lots of the digital efforts, but all have ended in a resounding thud (at least so far), in large part because they have not understood this unique characteristic of the higher ed market. They generally targeted ‘consumers,’ not making the nuanced distinction to target just the decision making part of the ‘consumer.’

Maybe this is arrogance of technologists who believe that technology will ultimately rule the day and win in all markets. I don’t disagree with that notion, but it will take a lot more time in higher ed given the inertia of the sector and the unbundling of the decision making, payment, and consumption of the product.