Reaching Out: A Key Habit For Ecosystem Evangelists

Hello, my name is Rex St. John and I spent the last 4 years traveling the world developing global ecosystem at Intel Mashery and Intel’s Makers and Innovators Group. As a result of my work on developer ecosystems, I have created a framework (tactics, habits, philosophies, strategies etc) for effective ecosystem development for hardware, API and cloud services.

I wanted to take a moment here share a habit that I believe every ecosystem development manager and technical evangelist should have in order to achieve maximum success in their job. Once you learn to do this and ingrain the habit on yourself, you are going to see your ecosystem development and evangelism results skyrocket!

The Habit Of Reaching Out

Ecosystem development managers and evangelists are very similar to CEOs: Their #1 job is recruiting the top talent in the industry, from all around the globe to their particular platform. As a result, great ecosystem managers should always looking to find and establish communications with the best they can get. The reason? Because you need the very best individuals and teams from around the world to use your platform so you can grow, improve and win! 

There is, however, one catch before you can achieve ecosystem nirvana: The thing that stops you from locating and developing these partners is…drum roll not having a systematic habit for automatically finding and reaching out to high-value partners on an ongoing basis! And that is what this article is here to help you learn how to do!

A few years ago, I ran across a very interesting platform extension for the Intel Edison from a new company who had posted their draft designs on Twitter. Not knowing what to do with this particular developer, I showed the project to my manager at the time (Delyn Simons of Intel Mashery). Her response? “Reach out and talk to them!”  Four years later, this particular developer was among the most productive and valuable members of the Intel Edison ecosystem and ultimately went on to produce products which made them the #1 seller of the platform in their particular geographic region.

In my experience, 85% of the time that I have located a developer, partner or small team who I considered to be in the top 5% of the industry, I found that I was the only person from any company that partner was talking with directly. Let me repeat this jaw-dropping statistic: Most of the very top talent out there in the wild has little, if any, direct internal support, relationship or contact with the hardware, software or cloud platform companies on which they rely. 

Once you realize the extreme leverage and value a single top partner can deliver to your organization, this statistic becomes even more fascinating. I have seen situations where a single partner, even a very small team, was absolutely critical to the success of a platform or plugged a gap which was impossible for anyone else to fill. I have seen a small team, with one project, deliver millions of dollars in value to other customers in the space of a few months for only a few thousand dollars in direct spend.

All that power and more can be yours for free…but only if you reach out. 
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Software Development Is “Over”

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Hipster-driven software development

The Hipster Cycle is not only alive and well in the world of software development, it seems to be the primary mechanism of software development “progress.” The good news is that a lot of ground has been covered, the bad news is everything we know about writing software is wrong. Will we be forever doomed to repeat our mistakes? Probably.

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Maker “Kits” Will Explode In Popularity, Sophistication

Homebrew Motherboard
An early hobby assembled motherboard

The Homebrew Computer Club was started in 1975 and ran until 1986 in Silicon Valley.

Driven by the availability of affordable hardware and concentration of electrical engineering talent, the club of bearded gents proved to be an invaluable epicenter of hobbyist innovation which resulted in several “do it yourself PC kits.”

One of these kits, assembled by none other than the glorious Steve Wozniak, would go on to become the foundation for a somewhat famous company known as Apple Computer. While fun, these kits were just the start of the real revolution: A fully assembled computer which could be mass produced and sold cheaply.

Walking through Ada’s Technical Books here in Capitol Hill I noticed piles of DIY kits which got my mind running…make your own plush computer powered pet, make your own flashing bracelet, DIY wearable clothing, DIY coffee hacking…The list goes on. Just like the Homebrew Computer Club, newly available, affordable hardware components are being assembled into pre-fabricated experiences and sold together. How much longer before one of these “kits” is turned into a mass produced solution that anyone can use? 

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Electronics kits of a similar nature have been sold for years, what is so special about these new toys?

The answer is simple: Connectivity in the form of Bluetooth LE, lightweight power sources and self-containment. The older types of kits were stuck in their own world. You couldn’t get data into and out of them without a cable and you couldn’t communicate directly with them using a standard mobile phone. You also couldn’t wear them due to their bulk and the size of their  battery packs.

When I attended a wearable computing hack-a-thon held by AT&T several months ago, participants were provided with a profusion of the available hardware at that time. The #1 question I got over and over was “Can I get it talking to my mobile phone? Can I upload / receive data from an API?”

At the time the answer was “no.” In the months since then,  new, low-cost Bluetooth LE chips such as the Adafruit Bluefruit have become available.

We have entered a new world where  wearable computing devices and mobile phone can easily talk, share data, upload and download data in real time. This combination has all the hallmarks of a melting pot from which the next Apple Computer may well emerge.