An employee recently left Kapost (sad to see you go T) and i was out to lunch with her and she asked some advice. I thought back to two pieces of advice that I was given or things that i have witnessed from successful colleagues. Here’s what popped up:
“90% of Power is Taken not Given”
This is a quote from my old boss Bill Raduchel. Bill loves saying phrases like this to me, and this was one juicy nugget he spat out in 2002 when I was working at AOL. I took it to heart. I was a product manager at the time and aspired t
o have even more responsibility within the company. He noticed that and delivered this great quote. What he meant was that nobody is going to give me extra responsibility. If i want it, i have to go take it and earn it.
That’s what i did. I wanted to run video services within the company. There were lots of people running bits and pieces but nobody was owning it. Instead of waiting for a title and position to be created, i just started acting like i was the defacto video product manager. I had weekly all-hands meetings with the other stakeholders, came up with a product roadmap, and basically acted like the product owner. What happened? Eventually the company realized i was the product owner and rewarded me with that title.
In small companies there are too many things to do. In big companies there are lots of ambiguity, swirl and gray space. In both instances, there’s an opportunity to do what you want. Just be proactive and go do it. In real estate, ownership is 9/10 the law. In startups, doing is 9/10 the position.
Don’t Eat Alone
This is just something i’ve realized. Most of the people we hire at Kapost come from referrals. Most of the opportunities i’ve been given in my career come from contacts of friends of friends. The size and strength (i.e. authenticity) of your network matters in today’s work world and in your career. I’ve seen people (Nick O’Neil) go crazy about this where they actually track in a spreadsheet the people they’ve met and want to keep in touch with and make sure every X number of days that they give them an update. It may sound excessive but it works. He has a ton of connections who regularly help him out.
There’s even a pretty good book, called “Never Eat Alone” which talks about the power of these connections.
Those are two things that immediately came to mind. I’d be curious if any of you have heard any other nuggets of great advice that you’d like to share.
I was visiting my grandmother last weekend. This is the same grandmother that was spotted on the streets of Manhattan at age 90 and asked to be a model for GNC (blog post: My Grandmother is Amazing). She was remarking about how she loves to see photos of the great-grandkids. I have one cousin who sends her an email of a picture every day. I left feeling like i was really laking in my picture sending.
Then, enter the Postgram App. With this app, i can grab any picture on my phone or in Instagram and send it as a postcard. You enter in a message and an address and it gets sent automatically. Viola.
Now, my grandma is getting mail all the time of pictures. Yes!
In mid-December I bought Twitter stock for ~$45 a share. Here’s why:
- I’m bulling on Twitter as a social network. I think it has lots of great use cases that almost anyone could benefit from. It will only grow in popularity once people start realizing what it is.
- I think Dick Costolo is a great CEO and product person. I’ve watched numerous interview with him (including this great PandoMonthly one), have followed his path since Feedburner, and I believe he has the company running on the right track and is doing a great job.
- Twitter is just now starting to monetize but I think they’ll be able to pull in a good amount of money.
- When I bought their market cap was 20 billion. At 10x multiples, that means they have to have yearly revenues of $2 billion. That seems feasible for me that they’ll get there.
I was happy with my purchase. Then, on Wednesday night Twitter announced their first ever earnings since going public. What a disaster it was. First off, everyone compares them to Facebook even though they are completely different. Second, they have seemed to have stopped growing. Look at this chart:
That’s not good. They need to grow. They only added 1 million US users in Q4. Wow, that is a crazy low number.
So, while I am still a believer, I think it might be a tough year or two (or three) until they hit mainstream. Trust me, it’ll be a better world when they do.
Here’s something I think is cool.
The Denver Broncos shattered records this year as the most dominant offensive team in NFL history. They scored 38 points per game this year, an NFL record. Their QB, Peyton Manning, also set records for most passing yards and touchdowns by a QB in a season. They play Seattle whose defense was the best in the league and is the fifth-best overall statistical performance of any team since 1989.
So, it will be an epic showdown of a historical great offense against a historically great defense.
If that hasn’t blown you mind enough, check this out…. the difference between the Broncos’ average-points-scored and the Seahawks average-points-allowed this season is the widest in the history of the Super Bown. It is what one website found to be “the greatest offense/defense showdown in Super Bowl history.”
So there’s that. Let’s go Broncos!
Here’s a fact for you. The average IQ of the human race is increasing and the rate of increase is increasing since the 1990′s. It’s called the Flynn Effect.
I just learned that because i watched this good TED talk about video games and gamification.
He talks about what actually makes people smarter and then argues that all the items that do can be found in games. Items such as:
He also talks about a guy in White Bear Lake MN who was a successful businessman. When his kids went to school, he was appalled at the education they were getting so he quit his job, got a masters in education, and took over an elementary school class. He then replaced the entire curriculum with a video game-based curriculum.
Did it work? Well, in 18 weeks his kids went from a below 3rd grade level to an above 4th grade level. In only 18 weeks. It was because games for them were fun and multiplayer.
This speaker, Gabe Zichermann, talks about this generation of millenials, 126 million of them, and how they use games as their primary means of entertainment. This has a profound effect on society, and you can see it in the dashboard of electric cars, in Nike’s website, and all over the place.
He tells the story of a guy in Sweden, Kevin, who made a traffic camera lottery system. Before Kevin, Sweden had a system where it takes a picture of your car if it’s going over the limit, then determines how much money the drivers make, and then issues tickets at higher prices to those who make more money and lower prices for those who make less money. Kevin re-engineered the system so it also takes a picture of those people who are driving under the speed limit and it enters them into a lottery – a lottery to win all the proceeds from the other tickets from people speeding. This is game-thinking where you take a negative reinforcement loop and turn it into a positive. It works. The average speed is now 20% less than it was before.
Corporations will also be doing it:
The speech is great. Thanks to Patrick for sending it my way. All of these facts point to a future that’s pretty different than it is today. Things are faster. There are rewards everywhere. There is a lot of collaboration. I’m actually looking forward to it.
I had pretty much written Yahoo off. I thought they were dead. They hadn’t done anything new and interesting for over 5 years. Their webpages looked like crap. They were just treading water. That all changed lately. Specifically in the past 6 months, they’ve done some things that really make me think they’ll be a player in the future.
First, let’s talk about Flickr. I’ve always used it as my default photo service where i store all my photos online. It used to be the best (in 2003-2006) and then it got abandoned. I still kept putting my photos there because i was locked in, but i knew it was dead. They added one small feature a year. I had seen that playbook at AOL. It means it’s only a matter of time before it’s time to leave. Then something magical happened. They pushed out a new iPhone app for it that was actually decent. Then they updated it to make it really slick. Then they announced 1 terabyte of free storage. Then they announced automatic iPhone uploads of photos. Whoa. All of the sudden, it was one of the best photo apps on my phone. All in about a 6 month period.
Second, they released a new News Digest app that is basically The Week magazine but a daily app. It aggregates 8 to 10 recent news stories and sends them to you twice a day. Once you’ve read the morning stories, you have to wait for the evening delivery. It’s beautifully made and is really easy to consume. It’s not the main way I get mainstream news.
Finally, they launched a new Tech site that claims to be different than current tech sites. The premise being that all tech sites today are focused on the top tier tech enthusiasts and people who care a lot about Silicon Valley. Yahoo Tech will be focused on the other 90%. People who want to know what the best TV is, not which Palo Alto exec just changed jobs. I think that’s a great idea.
So, it’s good to have another player back out there. Someone is building new things and innovating. I’m excited. It seems that Yahoo! is indeed earning the exclamation point on their name.
We had another great year in 2013 and here’s the video to prove it. We wish everyone a great 2013 and hope to spend lots of time with you all.
Lots of love from Mike, Diane and Hunter (now ~16 months)
PS: If you like the song it’s “Baby” from Devendra Banhart and you get it here.
I’m thinking about getting a new car. Mostly because i never drive my car, it frequently needs maintenance, and it just sits in my garage depreciating. So, i’d like to have a less expensive, more reliable car depreciating.
Of course, the car i want is the Tesla. It has everything a guy could want. But it’s too expensive and the Tesla SUV (the Tesla X) isn’t available yet. So, back to the drawing board. I’ll keep you posted as to what i get around to.
In the meantime, i thought i’d write a little about why I think Tesla is so great. One key characteristic is how they release their cars. Most car manufacturers do a waterfall-style release schedule, meaning they do one step of the manufacturing process after another in a linear way:
- First, design the car and call it a model name (usually after a year)
- Second, produce the car in a factory
- Finally, release the car to the public
- Then, start the process over again with a different model.
Most software companies (Kapost included) do it a different way, called “continuous deployment” where you release your product and then continuously update it every day, week and month. This way you can take customer feedback and immediately make change and improvements for all customers.
Telsa is doing this too. Their Model S sedan downloads firmware updates on a regular basis. These software changes go much further than simply changing user interface elements in the dashboard (which is a monster 11 inch touch screen). Instead, Tesla will modify major elements of the car from the suspension to its acceleration and handling characteristics. When they found out that people were lowering the height of the car too much on highways resulting in fires from drivers running into debris, they made a quick firmware update not allowing the car to be lowered as much.
What’s even cooler about doing this continuous release cycle is that Tesla has broken automobiles traditional release schedule. Rather than waiting a year to roll out a new Model S, they have been continuously improving the product every quarter on the assembly line. There are no model years to differentiate a Model S in 2012 from one in 2014.
That’s just one of the reasons they’ll disrupting the industry. I love it.
I wrote a few weeks ago a post about just how massive the site is. I listened to a good interview with Jason Calcanis recently where he shared his experiences working with them as a potential partner.
The short of it is that YouTube has not been at all interested in accommodating any partners because of their size and scale. One thing that i found interesting in this talk was just how powerful the future of YouTube is. Some interesting points:
- Cash. They have an amazing amount of cash at $50 billion (Forbes)
- Nobody’s in charge. Google is great at this in general. It is very hard to identify who is setting the direction and strategy for each group and the company as a whole. Because of this, they can’t be critiqued for lack of execution or for being evil.
- Avoiding Anti-Trust. They can’t buy any large players due to the fear that the government would block it for anti-competition reasons.
- They are copying competitor’s strategies. These competitors are getting lots of video channels around a niche and selling ads around it. YouTube is now doing just that and will probably do more.
The cool part of this is that YouTube could have bought Netflix or something similar. Thus, they are just going to buy lots and lots of content and put it out for free. My prediction is that You’ll see NFL and other sports content available there along with full tv shows – and it’ll be SWEET for all of us.
2013 was an interesting year. Here are a few of the things I’ll remember about it:
Diane and I bought our first house. After 3 years in Denver, we moved up to Boulder and bought a nice little house in North Boulder. It’s the perfect size and location. It’s close both to downtown (where we work) and the mountains so our commute is nothing and we can walk to the hiking trails. It’s a huge game changer.
My stint as a single parent. I’ll never forget the 10 weeks I spent taking care of Hunter. The baths, the feedings, the walks, the coordinating with the nanny – I got to really understand what it’s like to be responsible. I really think it’s made me a much better parent now having that experience. It also made Diane really happy which makes me happy. I love it when she shines – there’s nothing better.
I lost 20 pounds. During that time with Hunter, i got into a running routine and ate a bunch less for dinner, and as a result i dropped some serious weight. Although i put some back on over the holidays, it was game changing for me. I feel a lot better both physically and mentally. I’m still keeping to the 4x a week routine and should be able to keep the weight down to 170-175 (I was at 193)
This past year was a pivotal year for Kapost. We really grew the business and we hired some incredible folks. We went from 13 people to 42 and from under 400k in revenue to 1.8MM.
The Boulder flood was an incredible experience. Seeing that much rain and what i can do to a town is frightening. It destroyed our basement but nowhere near what it did to others. Seeing a rush of water crush down your front door is a nightmare. Here’s a video of a friend’s apartment building where they all had to be rescued from the second floor.
Becoming an uncle. I’m so happy for Liz and Mike. Knowing all the crap they went through to try to have a kid, then to finally get pregnant, then to have such a beautiful girl come into the world – I’m so happy both for them and for me. It’s really fun having that girl around and i can’t wait for Hunter and Reagan to become friends.
Those are the things that pop out in my mind in 2013. Here’s to a great 2014!