One of my new favorite podcasts is How I Built This on NPR. It’s a tightly edited 20-30 minutes each week with an entrepreneur about how they built their business. They done stories with the founders of Patagonia, Zumbra, Crate & Barrel and more. All of them are great.
The latest one I’ve heard is that of 5-Hour Energy Drink with founder Manoj Bhargava. I’ve never had the product and frankly have always looked down on it, but the story was fascinating and I found a few great nuggets in the episode. My favorite nuggets are:
The three best characteristics, according to Manoj, for someone wanting to start a business are (a) Common sense. Don’t get caught up in MBA-Speak. If it makes sense, do it. If not, don’t do it. (b) Determination. Don’t confuse passion with determination. Passion goes away but to be succussful you have to show up every single day. (c) Urgency. Don’t put off till tomorrow what you can do today. Don’t wait.
I also like the part where he talked about leaving money to his son and why he’s leaving him almost nothing. Manoj a billonaire and he had the great quote of “If you raise your kid to be useless, than leaving him money is pointless. If you raise your son to be competent, leaving him money is pointless.”
It’s worth a listen. Check it out.
As a product person, sometimes you prioritize incremental improvements instead of game-changing ideas because “the big swings” take too long. This almost happened at Tinder and the “swipe right” almost didn’t exist.
Here’s an article in Wired where the CEO and CTO recount how they talked about it. Jon Badeen (The Chief Strategy Officer) came up with the idea after seeing it done in flash cards in Chegg. He then showed the rest of the team.
Sean Rad (CEO): We had a five-minute conversation. It was a cool idea, bt jon thought it would take two weeks to build. So I said, eh, probably not a priority. That was right after we launched. We had a whole set of wings we wanted to do
Ryan Olge (CTO) chimes win with: We wanted to do read receipts, typing notifications, all these things
Then all of the sudden it showed up in the app. Apparently Jon worked on it over the weekend because he really wanted it.
And now the world has the right and left swipe.
I just read this article by Michael Simmons and it was really interesting. It states that that simply being in an open network instead of a closed one is the best predictor of career success.
The idea is that people in open networks have unique challenges and perspectives. Because these curious folk are part of multiple groups, they have unique relationships, experiences, and knowledge that other people in their groups don’t. These views lead to more and better opportunities.
The chart for this is:
It also interesting to see how this played out with Steve Jobs. He always advocated for diversity of experiences. In a Wired interview in 1995, he said:
Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something.
It seemed obvious to them after a while. That’s because they were able to connect experiences they’ve had and synthesize new things. And the reason they were able to do that was that they’ve had more experiences or they have thought more about their experiences than other people.
Unfortunately, that’s too rare a commodity. A lot of people in our industry haven’t had very diverse experiences.
So they don’t have enough dots to connect, and they end up with very linear solutions without a broad perspective on the problem. The broader one’s understanding of the human experience, the better design we will have.
I love this position. The experiencing of different industries, different cultures and different perspectives is a great goal to have.
I’m sort of a kickstarter junkie. I love buying stuff that is new and on the cutting edge and i like to support people building cool stuff. I often find items on Kickstarter that are ahead of their time and i usally sign up to support them.
However, my last three big purchases from Kickstarter have turned out to be a disappointment. Not so much because of what i received but because of how and when they were delivered. Let me explain
Why I was interested – a watch that integrates with my smartphone! All updates come to the watch. I also liked the Runkeeper integration where i don’t have to look at my phone when on a run.
Why I’m disappointed – I like the watch (my review of Pebble Watch) but i ordered this May 2012 and received it over a year later. By the time it hit the market, there were better options such as the Samsung or Sony watch. Ordering it on KS didn’t give me the option of exploring the market nor did it give me a watch before it hit the market. It just locked me into a solution.
Narrative Clip / Memoto
Why I was Interested – I love recording my life. The thought of something taking photos every 30 seconds sounds awesome. I was super into it.
Why I’m Disappointed – Again, it took FOREVER for this. I order November 2012 and received it almost 15 months later. Even worse they kept sending emails about how close they were – even though they weren’t actually close at all.
Veronica Mars Movie
Why I was Interested – I love the show. I was excited there’d be a movie and wanted to support that effort. They’d give me a digital download that i could watch at home instead of going to the theater. That alone was worth the price.
What I was Disappointed – The digital download was only available in this crappy Flixster player which couldn’t, unlike every other movie file i own, couldn’t be played on my television. Thus, i had to rent the movie anyway, essentially making me double-pay for the film. I was happy to do so, but i was still misled. Again i was disappointed.
To sum up, i love Kickstarter and what it does. I think it’s a great company. However, my enthusiasm for backing projects has gone way down. I’ll probably do some more but will likely only do it if i don’t need the product in any specific timeframe and only if my desire to support the project outweighs my desire to actually get the product described.
I listened this morning to a podcast where Steve Jobs was interviewed at the All Things D conference. He talked (around 45 min mark) about the post-PC world. I thought it was a pretty interesting analogy He states:
When we were an agrarian nation, all cars were trucks because that’s what you needed on the farm. As vehicles started to be used in urban centers, and as America started to move into those urban centers, cars got more popular and innovations like automatic transmissions, power steering and things you didn’t care about in a truck started to become paramount in cars. Today, maybe 1 in 25 or 1 in 30 vehicles is a truck where it used to be 100%. PC’s are going to be like trucks. They will still be around and provide a lot of value but they will be used by 1 out of X people.
This transformation will make some people uneasy. People from the PC world, like you and me becasue PC’s have taken us a long way. It’s brilliant. We talk about the post-PC era but when it really starts to happen, i think it’s uncomfortable for a lot of people. Because it’s change. A lot of vested interests will change. Things will be different. I think we’re embarked on that. Is it the iPad? Who knows? Will it happen next year, 5 years from now, 7 years from now? Who knows? But we’re headed there.
The post-PC world is interesting. I find myself doing more and more on my iPhone and i can see a day where i don’t bring my laptop with me on trips anymore as the iPad and a keyboard will be plenty.
With a new year (i know we’re a month old already) I’ve been wondering more about what the future holds. I have a few thoughts i’d like to share and get your thoughts. They are some prediction of the technology space. Here they go:
More and More Social Networks.
I wrote in 2007 when Facebook released “The Platform” that they would take over the web. Their product updates since then have great and as a result, they’ve been killing it for years and been gobbling up users (approaching 1 Billion now). However, this year I saw more and more social networks emerge. You have Path, Instagram, Foursquare, FoodSpotting and others. It’s easy for me to see now that in the future everyone will be on Facebook but that’s not where everyone will share. It will be fragmented. Depending on what you share (Food, Books, Photos, etc.), you may be someplace else and sharing with a smaller group. Facebook will continue to be a huge company but their days of being the only game in town are numbered. Social is now not a facebook-only feature. Everyone has it. The future is more about what your social activity revolves around. I’ve started to tell people that “facebook is a fad” and it’s old news. That’s not entirely true but it’s more true now than ever.
The Future of Local Publishing
More and more people are trying to get into local publishing. The local newspaper has seen its classifieds, sports, world news and national news all get marginalized by other outlets (TV, internet, twitter, etc.). All that’s left is local. I used to be bullish on Patch, but that’s waning as i don’t see them innovating and it seems to be too big and too expensive an operation at each location. That may change though. With that said, here’s my prediction for what wins in a local community:
You have a site, this could be a WordPress site or Tumblr or whatever. It’s managed by one to three super-engaged people who are not pulling a salary (or a minimal one). They do two things. First, they curate all the news from papers, blogs and other local sites that are reporting in their community. Second, they accept via twitter and their site submissions of links and news. They curate both of them and then spit it out back to their followers on their site and on Facebook and Twitter. This becomes the best real-time source of news.
This works because it is impossible for one source to aggregate all the information themselves (what newspapers used to do) but it is all being covered by other people who are willing to share. The new local publisher is a connector of local interests to other web sites. I could see this being just a twitter feed or a Tumblr blog. Whatever the destination is, it’s heavily conversational and constantly curated.
Just some predictions i have. Would love to hear your thoughts.
A few people asked me this week how keep track of things i need to get things done. So, let me tell you.
First, I keep an ongoing Task list. I have a big list and then i have a line in that list that i put each day of the things i want to accomplish that day. This way i can move things up and down that list. I actually have two lists – a personal list and a work list. I find that it’s helpful to keep them separate as i try to accomplish the work list when i’m at work and then when i leave, i consider my time to get those tasks done as over. Then i’m on personal time. It’s helpful to keep them separate. How do i keep these tasks? I use Google Tasks. It’s nicely tied into both my email and my calendar. Also, there’s an app (I use GooTasks) that synch with the Gmail version so i can grab tasks when i’m on the go.
Second, i have a “one-touch” policy. I’m not sure who told me about this but the idea is that you should touch things only once. If you can read, process and reply all at one time, it’s better than filing to do later. I do this with physical mail and i also try to do it with email. I’m not as good as some, but i’ve found that the more you do this, the more you get done. My business partner Toby is actually a master of this.
Third, i subscribe to the “Daily Inches” mantra of consistency. This is best expressed in the Al Pacino speech in “Any Given Sunday” (listen to it here). The idea is that if you really want to make big changes – this could be your life, your work or whatever – the best way is to make progress daily. You don’t ahve to do it all at once, but just make a little progress every day and you’ll get there. For instance, if you want to increase your arm strength in the gym, you don’t want to go on a weekend and try to lift weights for 20 hours straight. No, it’s better to work out a little bit each day for an extended period of time. Make a little progress, every day.
There it is. My three easy steps to getting things done – Lewis-style. Most of it is common sense, but thought i’d share. Tasks, one-touch, and daily inches. What is your philosophy for getting things done?
I just saw a great video that breaks down Led Zepplin and how many of their tracks were stolen from other tracks. While interesting, it makes the larger point which i completely agree with that “everything is a remix” today and it always has been. Taking previously created content and altering it to make something similar but also original and unique is what art’s all about.
Over the past few years, i’ve grown to love the music mashup which is when a DJ takes two or more (sometime a dozen) songs and mixes them all together to create a new song. Some of my favorites have U2+a rap song, an instrumental with Star Wars soundtrack, and 80’s classic with Jay-Z (links to all songs are below). I’ve noticed a few things: (a) that listening to these tracks is totally different than listening to the original, even though they sound extremely similar; (b) the best music mashups have a classic rock backbone and then from another tune faster lyrics on top of it.
Mashups and remixes of all kind are all over. I’m seeing it in TV shows, for instance in The O.C. where they did an episode just like the Spider Man movie or when Avatar recycles the plot from Dances With Wolves. Everyone has biases and influences so it’s rare to find something truly original. Even when copying though, you are creating something new. When Twitter launched, people thought it was just a copy of the News Feed application that was just one part of Facebook ,but it’s grown into something completely different than Facebook. I always thought a cool movie idea would be an entire movie and narrative but every lined used is from another film. Some lines are famous, and others wouldn’t be as recognizable. I think it’s a cool thought.
I’m pro-remix. I think more people should try it. Personally, I have a goal for myself over the next 12 months to actually create a music mashup of my own where i can actually use the tracks i enjoy the most to make something original. I’ll let you know how it goes.
Here are my favorite music mashups that i’ve posted on my music blog where i post one good song every weekday:
I love the Fitbit service. I’ve been using it now for 8 months.It’s a great little service that allows you to track your activity. The UI is also quite slick so entering in your weight and food is a snap. As with most things, i’ve found that the more I track it, the more I tend to improve in that area. So, the more i see how my activity rates are, the more active i become.
I have one main problem with the Fitbit. I don’t like carrying the bit. Sure it synchs easily but it’d be so much better if it was tied into a device that i’m carrying with me already such as my iPhone. Two huge advantages: my iPhone is always in my pocket and I have never mistakenly thrown it into the laundry. The fitbit device is so small. I know of a several people who have destroyed it by putting it in the wash.
So, fitbit, when can we expect the iPhone app? Even if it requires a hardware case to be around the phone, that’s fine with me. Just bring it on. Thanks
In the Oct. Wired magazine they had a small blurb about things we’ll say to our grandkids. Some of the good ones were:
- Back in my day, we only needed 140 characters
- There used to be so much snow up here, you could strap a board to your feet and slide all the way down
- TV contests gave cash to whoever could store the most data in their head
- Well, the screens were bigger, but they only showed the movies at certain times of day
- You used to keep the files on your computer, and you had to go back to the same computer to access them!
I thought it was an interesting topic. Some more i thought of:
- Even though they were bigger, our cell phones were only for making calls
- It seems strange, but new artists didn’t pay us to listen to their music. In fact, we had to buy the music from them
- When i was a kid, when we looked at cars we used to think “the bigger the better”
- People used to think that being tan was cool
- When kids were born, first of all they didn’t grab a clone for storage but also they had no way of not only knowing what hair color or muscle mass they kid would have and some patents didn’t even know if they were having a boy or a girl
- We had these things called “TV channels” and we had to order all the channels or none of them. We only had a few hundred of them and you couldn’t search for anything on your TV.
- We used to go to watch the football/baseball game in person. I know it’s crazy but they used to have huge stadiums to watch the game with your own eyes.
What can you think of?