250 Members and Beyond

One month and one week into existence, Founders LIVE has officially hit the 250 member mark.

This is a great milestone (one of many to come) and all of us should be proud of the initial growth thus far given it was a soft launch with zero media or marketing. Thanks for all the help in taking action, you guys rock!

If you would allow me a few minutes, I will expand on what I have learned in the short time launching Founders LIVE and what I envision for the next phase of growth.

You may recall when I announced the launch of Founders LIVE I was opening it up for free registration for a limited time – the first 100 members, then it became first 200 members to join would get Founders LIVE memberships free for life – and then turn on paid subscriptions as we built it out. That is still true today, and it’s still free to register as of this publishing so go tell that friend you’ve been thinking would love Founders LIVE right now (maybe even use the share buttons at the bottom of this post!).

Paid subscriptions are indeed on their way. The current functionality is not where I’d like it and I am awaiting a technical update to take effect so the registration and payment process is a seamless as possible. It should be implemented within the next month so until then, share away and let your friends know this thing is open for free just for a limited time more.

Launching Founders LIVE has been an incredible experience for me. The biggest thing I have learned during this first month is how much people actually crave community. This might be elementary to some of you but for me I am quite surprised how much we as humans desire to belong and be a part of something larger than us. It’s just human nature to want to belong and connect with others; to explore and meet new people; to learn new uplifting and positive things each day. A community. A group of like minded people. A collective that talks the same language and is heading in the same direction for the same reasons. That’s what we are building here on Founders LIVE and the feedback thus far has been centered on how cool it is we together are forming this unique virtual community around the entrepreneurial spirit.

One of the other things I learned has to do with the word “Founder.”  The word has numerous connotations and meanings. Some of you may not directly identify with being a “founder” or call yourself one when talking with others. You might even say “oh, I’m not a founder…” as if to be hesitant to self identify with the word. I don’t fully understand that position given what I do – and given I started this platform called Founders LIVE – but regardless it is a feeling some have and I respect it.

Yet I don’t believe it. I actually DO think you are a founder. I think most – if not all – people are founders in their own ways. Yes Founders are people who start companies but they are also much more than that. Founders are creators. Founders are starters. Founders are dedicated people working on things that bring value to the world. Founders are leaders who influence others and bring out the best in people.

Any of those sound like you? Being a founder is a way of thinking and a way of life, not just a title on LinkedIn because you started a company.

It seems to me the word Founder is a little scary due to people like Steve Jobs, Bill Gates and other highly successful, famous and wealthy people who are leaders of very large organizations. Many of us simply cannot see ourselves in a similar light as those individuals because the media has warped what it means to be a founder. The “myth of the founder” – wiry haired (usually young white male) who is working 20 hours a day in their garage – has also played into influencing how we view ourselves as founders or not. If you don’t fit that stereotype, it’s easy to think to yourself you are not a founder.

I’d like to urge you to drop the assumption you are not a founder – or that founder is something to not be embraced. If you have joined this platform already, you have self selected as a founder. If you are hungry everyday for wise and helpful information you can use to move yourself forward, you are a founder. And if you are one of the millions, no billions, of people creating things in this world – be it a painting, a song, a technology, a company, a non-profit, a family – you are a founder.

Welcome home. And in the end if you really don’t feel you are a founder, sticking around and getting to know the founders on here will give you better insights on how we think, act and work.

(Not on Founders LIVE yet. SIGN UP HERE.)

My vision for what’s ahead is as ambitious as it is exciting. And I think is well within reach. I believe Founders LIVE will be the new destination for entrepreneurial education, entertainment and encouragement.

I started Founders LIVE as an effort to create a new approach to content creation and community engagement. The realization came when I noticed blogging was really just one->many and not much of a social experience. Also, that experience was really just about me and my work. Not others.. I quickly realized there’s a better model. I determined to create a platform for creatives, entrepreneurs and go-getters to connect with like minded people and if desired, be provided a channel to display their talents – be it crafting pithy nuggets of wisdom, writing blog posts, conducting interviews, distributing podcasts or creating fascinating videos, art or music. More importantly, I wanted to create a central channel for others (outside the network) to find this type of valuable content and in the process maybe become better people. And to open a space where all of us creatives can see and be seen, to read and be read, and to hear and be heard. I believe everyone has a unique set of talents. Founders LIVE allows you to share yours, and discover other talented people and enjoy what they have to offer.

The 3-5 year horizon I envision for Founders LIVE is to become a thriving media property specifically created around entrepreneurship and creativity. Replacing the current lean-back entertainment of TV shows, Founders LIVE will embrace new forms of participation media such as live mobile streaming, live events, blogging and writing, commenting, messaging, sharing, content curation and social interaction. All this in one channel specific to founders and the greater entrepreneurial population around the world.

Within this property, Founders/entrepreneurs – as well as others that simply want to learn and be entertained – will be delivered hyper relevant content around aspects of starting companies, creating products, art, music and anything that tugs at the creator’s soul urging to be brought to society. I envision this channel to be truly authentic, built for entrepreneurs by entrepreneurs, with content generated and crowdsourced by the community as well as curated by the Founders LIVE team so as to retain a high level of quality aimed to add value to the people subscribing to it.

Also, Founders LIVE will become the default “social network” (if we can even still use that term) for any would be/existing entrepreneurs, a must have platform to be active on if you want to move forward. LinkedIn has become too corporate-y, professional, recruit-y and spammy, and really only serves as your new resume. And now owned by Microsoft! Founders LIVE should serve as both one’s channel to display their talent/work as well as the most authentic, safe and enjoyable space for creatives to connect with others who see the world as they themselves do.

For the near term, I’ll be starting the new live streaming experience shortly with a new monthly event specific to this community. I won’t dive into too many details soon but rest assured it’s going to be cool, fun, entertaining and most of all uniquely ours.

I am excited for what lies ahead. Honestly – and I am not just saying this – you should also be as honored and as excited as I am to see something like this form right in front of your eyes, because you will gain just as much value, connections and experience from this platform as I will.

Here’s to 250 and beyond!

Not on Founders LIVE yet. SIGN UP HERE.

Earth To USA Today and JP Morgan – There Are More Startups Today Than Ever Before

A recent column in the U.S.A Today makes the bold claim that there are less startups today than compared to the 1980’s, during the Carter administration.

The rationale:

At any rate, the latest data indicate that start-ups are becoming rarer, not more common. A new report from JPMorgan economist Mike Feroli indicates that employment in start-ups is plunging. New jobs in the economy tend to come from new businesses, but we’re getting fewer new businesses. 

I am going to guess Glenn Harlan Reynolds, a professor and the author of the post, is not an entrepreneur and has never been one.  If he was one he would know basing innovation metrics and the quantity of “startups” solely on the amount of people they employ is an incredibly flawed argument.

Screen Shot 2013-05-06 at 8.00.44 PM

Diving deeper into the JP Morgan study, they lay claim to a few reasons on why we are seeing an apparent slow down in startups:

Hudson’s possible suspects for the slowdown: a) higher business taxes, b) Obamacare, c) an IRS crackdown on US employers that hire U.S. workers as independent contractors rather than employees, and d) a steady barrier erected to entrepreneurs at the local policy level.

But whatever the cause of the entrepreneurial decline, two possible impacts: 1) A less productive and innovative economy, and 2) higher profits for big business thanks to fewer upstart competitors on the horizon.

Here are a few observations on why I feel this assessment is off the mark:

1) Assuming Obamacare is a factor completely misses the point, since Obama wasn’t even in office when the decline in jobs started (see chart above).

2) Although a local policy issue may influence certain industries – since we’re talking the entire nation here it’s irrelevant to include local policies because they vary state to state.  I, for one, can tell you it’s quite easy to get going in your own new venture.

3) The IPO market really cooled off over the last decade, suggesting a rise in mergers and acquisitions.  Simply stated, startups are being bought by bigger companies before they beef up their workforce, which also will affect overall startup employment numbers.

4)  If anything, they miss the most obvious reason why people would choose employment at a larger corporation rather than a startup: job security and dependable paycheck in a shaky economy.   Although this also doesn’t apply since the economy didn’t tank until late 2008 and beyond, so again, not a very high correlation.

5) The largest omission in this report can be seen by evaluating technological progress and the resulting drop in computing costs.  Comparing the chart from the JP Morgan article and a graph of Moore’s Law (which is exponential) you now realize using a simple number like the number of employees of startups is probably the wrong approach when determining the current status of innovation.  Moore’s Law states the computing power is increasing at the same time the cost is dropping.  So, it is easier to start a business than ever before. The cost of computing, virtual work environments, AWS, instant and free communication tools, and the proliferation of the web have coalesced to create a startup nirvana.  Looking at two charts from the same timeframe you will notice the stark drop in jobs at the same time a drastic increase in computing power?  Coincidence?  I don’t think so.

So am I missing something here?

Maybe if they simply stated “startups are employing less people” I wouldn’t have a problem with the report.  But they didn’t.  They claim (in fact lead with) the idea that there are less startups and innovation than in the 80’s and 90’s, which I feel is wrong – or at least how they came to that conclusion is currently flawed.  They go on to make a few solid points regarding higher taxes and government regulation and how those influence an early venture hiring but lack any real depth for their argument.  Maybe they should have consulted an entrepreneur or two who could help them sift through the chaff a bit further.

Moore's Law of Computing Power

Moore’s Law of Computing Power

My take: it takes less people to achieve more today.  What once took a team of 10 to accomplish now only takes 2 or 3 people and a wifi connection.  So I am claiming the exact opposite of the USA Today and JP Morgan.  We are seeing more products, apps, and startups created today than ever before.  Ask any VC or startup founder and I guarantee they will say the same thing.

Hell, Instagram and their entire team of 12 employees was sold for almost $1 billion to Facebook in 2012.  So whatever you do, do not believe there is a lack of innovation and startups out there.  If anything, there’s more innovation and startups created each day than ever before because we can do more with less.

One just needs to look closer and use the right measuring stick.

It Just Got Even Easier To Find Talent At SURF Incubator

logo_104x60One of the most common challenges for early stage startups is finding talented and willing people to join your startup.   In the early stages, finding the right developer can be the difference between success and failure for a young startup.

Today, SURF Incubator announced how they are addressing the recruiting challenges of its tenant companies by partnering with local recruiting agency Capability IT.  With an intellectual partner like Capability IT, startup entrepreneurs are empowered with intellectual resources and a robust network to find culturally and technically capable employees, enabling them to more quickly secure talent and get back to work.

Although the Puget Sound region has proved itself to be home to a world-class high-tech workforce over the last few years, with several companies either opening Seattle engineering offices or expanding their engineering departments, it still remains a tough hiring environment for early stage startups.  Especially since the competition can promise an immediately rewarding salary with large signing bonuses, full benefits and various amenities like a famous executive chef at Google.  But through a partnership with Capability IT, SURF startups will receive greater access to a network of developers and potential growth opportunities, making their lives a bit more pleasant in the process.

Over the past year, Capability IT has made solid traction in the tech community, by adding superior talent to a number of Seattle based startups.  Not only does Capability IT provide more access to developers, they can also help startup entrepreneurs identify and secure contract assignments. It is quite common for entrepreneurs to take on technical consulting projects while their startup gains traction, enabling entrepreneurs better cash flow and sometimes even finance their startup. Because Capability IT works with companies ranging from early-stage startups to publicly traded companies, they are able to efficiently source opportunities for fledging entrepreneurs.

Being a SURF tenant startup founder myself, I can validate how important this move is for all the startups within the SURF Incubator community.  During the early prefunding stage of a startup, founders have little more than their dream to pitch to prospective early talent.   We also have limited time and energy to somehow go and find this talent., which requires scouring online profile databases, attending local meetups and events, searching through our own networks or simply asking around.

At times those can work, but where I see Capability IT really helping is farther up the funnel, providing founders with a larger pool of applicants/names to sort through.  Even though we might still be looking for a needle in a haystack, Capability IT will give early stage startups more haystacks to look through and in the end helping us find better talent to join our teams.  In this way, Capability IT’s partnership with SURF Incubator is just one part of SURF’s mission to be a community-supported space for digital startups.

SURF will be celebrating this announcement with a happy hour event, including beer and wine as well as a few startup pitches from resident companies.  Everyone is welcome to attend, if you are interested – RSVP here.

Launch Event – When & Where

Thursday, January 24th, 2013 from 5:00 – 8:00pm PST

Exchange Building – 821 2nd Ave, Suite 800

5:00 – 6:00pm          Hosted wine and beer

6:00 – 6:15pm          Partnership announcement

6:15 – 7:00pm          Startup demos

7:00 – 8:00pm          Entrepreneur conversations


This Slide Shows Exactly Why It’s An Incredible Time To Start A Mobile Company

This is truly an amazing time.  This one slide from a recent Business Insider presentation is the main reason why I started Seconds.  We are seeing a revolution around mobile devices and every industry will experience immense changes, whether they like it or not.  Payments are no exception and it’s going to be a wild ride baby!

Holy Crap! One Year Ago Today My Life Was Completely Different

One year ago today – May 1st 2011 – I officially walked away from my previous career and made the leap into entrepreneurship.  These last 365 days have been some of the most exciting, rewarding and scary times of my life.  Back then, I was sitting at a desk in a fitness facility at the Boeing Company, working as a physiologist.  Today, I sit here as the CEO of a tech company making waves in the mobile payments space, talking to investors and multi-billion dollar companies.  Oh, how things can change in a year…

Some experiences of the past year:

  • Quit my full-time job and gave up a steady paycheck
  • Had no idea how I was going to pay my bills…
  • Watched the gig I thought I was transitioning to disappear
  • Launched this blog and started reaching people around the world
  • Started contributing the BusinessInsider.com
  • Was basically a free agent over the summer, just focusing on writing on here
  • Had no idea how I was going to pay my bills…
  • Was one-day away from taking a COO role at a startup in New York, when…
  • My soon to be co-founder reached out to me through a random email in August
  • I sat down and over coffee determined we should start a company
  • We formed Seconds in early September
  • We released our beta product late fall, early winter
  • At first, we focused on text messaging between customers and local merchants
  • At the beginning of January we started gaining attention and media
  • Ran out of money
  • Had no idea how I was going to pay my bills…
  • Through February and March we kept expanding our vision and writing about it
  • We made the change to focus on mobile payments driven through text messages
  • We now field inquiries and interest from around the world and look to expand Seconds
  • I now write guest posts on the most popular tech blogs around
  • and people now look at me as a though leader and actually listen to what I have to say

So much more happened over the course of the last year but I will stop there.  I want to make something very clear: your life is what you make of it.  I have completely transformed my life in the last 365 days and I sit here today in awe of what I have been able to do.  We are (close) to being finalists in national recognition for being one of the top innovative companies of 2012.  I could’t have dreamed of this just one short year ago.  This transition has not been easy – actually the most difficult thing I have ever done in my life – but it’s not impossible.

You can do anything you set your mind to, never forget that.

Shoppers, Please Don’t’ Fight At The Mall. Play Mallopoly Instead!

The holidays are coming in full swing and that can only mean one thing – Malls.  If you are like me, you’re not overly excited to brave this crazy world for hours on end.  Crying babies, screaming kids, frustrated shoppers and too much perfume can give anyone a headache.   Also like me, you might get a bit disturbed by the fighting that seems to have become a Black (eye) Friday tradition.

Have no fear…. Point Inside is here to calm your nerves and bring a little more fun to the holiday shopping experience.  They are adding to the holiday spirit with the upcoming launch of a new in-app game, Mallopoly, inside the Point Inside Shopping & Travel app.  Players can win a $100 American Express Gift Card through a daily random drawing between now and Dec. 31, 2011. Players can also win the $1000 Grand Prize gift card to be drawn on Jan. 2, 2012.

Point Inside helps retailers increase sales and profits by engaging customers in real-time using micro-location, indoor mapping, personalized content and apps.  They must have the right idea, Google seems to be thinking the same thing, although I doubt Google has created a cool game of Mallopoly for holiday shoppers.  The game play is pretty simple. Players gain entries into the drawing for the following:

• By claiming a place in the app, such as a store or restaurant (one place per day)

• When your place page is viewed (one view per place page per person per day)

• By sharing the app with a friend (one share is counted per day)

Playing the game requires updating to version 3.1 of the Point Inside Shopping & Travel app. The Android version will be live Tuesday; iPhone app should be live by the end of the week.  Press release is below.

Mallopoly Game to Launch within Point Inside Shopping & Travel App

Players can claim places within the app to be eligible to win daily $100 prizes and $1000 Grand Prize


Bellevue, WA — November 30, 2011 —Point Inside, Inc. (www.pointinside.com) today announced the launch of the Holiday Edition of its new in-app game, Mallopoly™. By “claiming” places in the app, such as Nordstrom in Bellevue Square Mall, players become eligible to win the Daily Prize of $100 and the Grand Prize of $1000. Players receive additional entries in the random drawing when another person visits their place inside the app or the player shares the app with another person.

“This is an exciting step forward in evolution of our shopping and travel app,” says Josh Marti, CEO at Point Inside. “We’ve had a tremendously positive response when we launched the latest version of Point Inside Shopping & Travel app with hundreds of thousands of deals. Now we’re creating a completely new level of shopper engagement by adding a very rewarding game to the app.”

The gameplay and rules are simple. A player gets an entry into the daily drawing when they “claim” one of the millions of places in the Point Inside app. Additional entries are gained from people visiting that place and sharing the app with friends. Winners for the daily $100 American Express Gift Card are randomly drawn from the previous day’s entries. All entries through December 31, 2011, are eligible for the Grand Drawing of a $1000 American Express Gift Card. Mallopoly starts Monday, November 28, and is available immediately for Android platforms; iPhone will be available shortly following iTunes App Store approval.

“This Holiday Edition of Mallopoly is the first of many for the game. We see it as another way to make more shoppers aware of great deals in both their local areas and in the stores they like,” says Marti.

The Point Inside Shopping & Travel app features include:

  • Hundreds of thousands of deals by location and venue, such as a specific mall or selected geographic areas
  • Special offers from national brands and local retailers
  • Listings of millions of retailers searchable by location and category including clothing and electronics
  • In-venue navigation features with routing
  • Maps of over 1300 shopping malls, airports, theme parks and other points of interest.
  • Store and shop directory information including store hours, contact information 
and special events
  • Complete list of services including restaurants, restrooms, ATMs, parking, elevators, escalators, rental cars, gates and ticketing counters.
  • Driving directions to locations (available for Android)

About Point Inside, Inc.

Point Inside has transformed the shopping experience by enabling retailers to engage proactively with customers through their smartphones at every point along the purchase path. Mobile apps driven by the Point Inside Interact™ platform increase sales, loyalty and customer satisfaction from initial research and product discovery to the creation of shopping lists and in-store activities. This new level of customer engagement is made possible through Point Inside’s patent-pending technologies in indoor mapping, micro-location services and customer engagement.

Point Inside also offers consumers a free mobile application, Point Inside for Shopping and Travel., on iOS and Android devices. Users can quickly find stores, gates, kiosks, restrooms, elevators, escalators, and other guest services in over 1300 malls, airports, theme parks and other venues.

Founded in 2009 and based just outside of Seattle, the company is led by a team of executives with decades of experience developing mobile and location-based services (LBS) applications for companies such as Amazon, AT&T, Boeing, and Qualcomm.  Additional details can be found at: www.pointinside.com; Facebook: www.facebook.com/PointInside; Twitter: www.twitter.com/PointInside.


Innovate Around “Deadly Sins” And Other Golden Nuggets from StartupDay In Seattle

According to Wikipedia, the lean startup is defined as:

the method advocates the creation of rapid prototypes designed to test market assumptions, and uses customer feedback to evolve them much faster than via more traditional product development practices, such as the Waterfall model. It is not uncommon to see Lean Startups release new code to production multiple times a day[2], often using a practice known as Continuous Deployment[3].

According to Eric Ries, this might be satisfactory.  But he believes the Lean Startup is defined as:

An experiment.

I recently attended StartupDay in Seattle, where speakers touched on a variety of subjects to help early stage founders and would be entrepreneurs along their startup path.  As the keynote speaker, Reis explained how the process of building a startup is evolving from the waterfall ideology to a more agile and lean approach.

“Your goal is to determine if there is a cheaper way to test and validate your assumptions.”

Ries hammered home the idea that a startup really is just an experiment, where you are testing a set of assumptions as cheap as possible.  If proven wrong, you “pivot” towards a new set of assumptions and continue down the path of establishing a scalable and repeatable business model.

“The goal is to Reduce the time between pivots, increase odds and runway so your company can survive until you find a repeatable and scalable model.”

He also noted the new approach to The startup Way, focusing on four areas of the company.

  • people
  • culture
  • process
  • accountability

Among a number of new terms, Validated Learning jumps out at me as something to internalize.  It is a process on determining value and waste… Then optimize accordingly.  Find the value (what is working) and do more of it.  Find the waste (what is not) and put it aside, leave it behind.  Sounds pretty simple, right?  Well yes.  Yet it is funny how so many startups fail because they did not get to the point of repeatable value creation.  What Reis is saying is “get to this point as fast as you can”.  So measure everything.  Study it and validate your learning.

To sum it up, here are 3 things to focus on if you are a founder:

  • Establish the baseline MVP
  • Tune the engine
  • Pivot or persevere

Other notable speakers include:

Brian Wong
Kiip – As a young founder, Wong laid out six thoughts to help first time entrepreneurs on their journey.

1. Set the direction
2. Law of serendipity
3. You = motivator
4. Won’t have a clue
5. No time to spend
6. Crazy things

Rand Fishkin

SEOmoz – Rand spoke on the challenging topic of Failure, noting that it happens to all of us and how we approach it will determine our success.

  • Fail early
  • Have metrics
  • Fail survivably

Ask yourself the hard questions

  • do we have wrong assumptions?
  • do we have the wrong people?
  • odds we screw up again?
Glenn Kelmann
Redfin -Glenn had some great advice on how best to approach the initial stages of your product, everything from focusing on “problems in your life” to “deadly sins”.
  • Build off of others ideas
  • Delight the first user
  • Focus on Seven deadly sins

Good Lord, All I Need Is Another Darn App In My Life…

I think I am like most other people.  I use a few apps daily… like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, the weather app, email, maps, texting, and some various other ones I can’t remember their names but I do remember what they look like and where they sit on my phone.

I flip through 6 or so “screens” of apps each day just to find the one I need. This is too much in my opinion.  It feels as if we are drowning in a sea of apps.

So do we really need more apps in our life?  And should you rest your company’s future on thinking people will want to download another one to their device?

Here are some stats:

  • The most used Android apps in the US are Google Maps, Gmail and Facebook, according to research from Nielsen.
  • More than 500,000 apps have been approved in the Apple App store.
  • Total App Store revenue before the break-down is almost $3.6 billion in aggregate.

There’s half a billion apps are available for me to download… and how many will actually end up on my device?  Very little.  And once some have made it to  my iPhone, will I even use it after the first time?  I fear not…

The message here is :

1) if you are a mobile phone user, you have to dig through so much clutter to find useful apps today.  This is inconvenient and it sucks, so we will remain with our “tried and true” apps and not venture to download many more.

2) if you are a business, maybe the app store approach is not such a good idea.  Fighting for shelf space is getting more difficult as they days go by because I think most people think similar to me.  Why put such barriers to everyday usage for your web service?  My opinion is if you are  solely depending on a app store positioning, the odds are you will get lost in the clutter.

Does anyone else have this problem?

The Mechanics Of A Sustainable Business Model

I am just going to say it: I don’t buy it – Groupon’s decision to postpone their IPO has little to do with market conditions and more to do with recent missteps and investor doubts on the sustainability of their business.What do I mean?

Everyone has their own opinions, and here is mine – Groupon rushed an IPO as fast as they could knowing their current model was unsustainable, and is in need of an influx of cash before the bricks started falling off the building.  It seems the beginning of the end is already upon them.

We can speculate how the story will end but in reality I don’t know any more than you do.  This might be a good time to back up a bit and get a grasp of how an early stage company can sidestep this mess all together.

The Startup:

The purpose of a startup is to find a repeatable and sustainable business model.

Repeatable.  Sustainable.  Business.  Model.  Scalable.  Period.

It is easy to get jealous of stratospheric growth companies such as Groupon.  I mean who wouldn’t want to be a major shareholder of such a hot web startup.  Yet let’s get something straight: Groupon’s daily deals model is not sustainable.  It’s repeatable, yes.  But sustainable?  No.  When you are paying off past customer debt with today’s customer revenue and never seeing black ink, the model is broken.  When the majority of your “customers” (read businesses) aren’t coming back in troves to frequently repeat their experience, the model is broken.

I doubted the validity of the mass discount daily deals concept from the beginning.  Over the last few years I have kept a keen eye on the emergence of this entire “deals” market, and have been pleasantly proven correct.  Like a miser with my palms together and a snarky smile, I have watched as everyone jumped in the fray only to realize they are chasing after the pot of gold at the end of a seemingly never-ending rainbow.

Incidentally, I am not alone in thinking about daily deals un-sustainability.  Here’s one.  And another oneAnd here’s another one.  (search “daily deals not sustainable” and see what pops up.)

I wonder if any of these deal companies ever sat down to draw out their model, expand their business model canvas, if you will, and determine who is involved, where value is created and how it can be sustained?

My guess is no.

Groupon stumbled upon an anomaly when it was still called ThePoint.  All the other’s observed Groupon’s rapidly growth and rather than doing the hard work of critical thinking, they just determined it was a solid business.  They figured copying was they best idea.  Until it wasn’t…

The Business Model

A business model describes the rationale of how an organization creates, delivers and captures value.

So how do you figure out a sustainable model to orient your business around?

As the CEO of Order SM, it is my job to figure out how to strategically grow and sustain our business.  Here’s how we approaching it.

When building out a startup one of the most important pieces to the puzzle is revenue generation, or the business model.  Using the Business Model Canvas, Order SM has been able to lay out all the components of the business and visually illustrate where value is created.  We have adopted much from the book Business Model Generation: A Handbook For Visionaries, Game Changers and Challengers, including using the canvas to extrapolate various business models within Order SM.  (This book is a MUST for any early stage startup.  Don’t be so cocky as to think you know exactly what your business models are when you design and launch your product.  Do yourself a favor and use this book)

Below are the various sections of the canvas, with associated questions we are evaluating as we move forward developing our business model(s).  I have laid it out to help you get a better mental perspective as you start to approach your business model canvas.  Adapted from the book, I hope this is enough to nudge you in purchasing it – it’s awesome!

Customer Segments

The customer segments building block defines the different groups of people or organizations an enterprise aims to reach and serve.  Without paying (and profitable) customers, a business cannot survive for long.

For whom are we creating value?  What are our most important customers?

Value Propositions

The value propositions building block describes the bundle of products and services that create value for a specific customer segment.  The value proposition is the reason why customers will turn to one company over the other.  It solves a customer problem or satisfies a customer need.

What value do we deliver to the customer?  Which one of our customers problems are we helping to solve?  Which customer needs are we satisfying?


The channels building block describes how a company communicates with and reaches its customer segments to deliver a value proposition.  Communication, distribution and sales channels comprise a companies interface with customers.

Through which channels do our customer segments want to be reached?  How are we reaching them now?  How are our channels integrated?  Which ones work best?  Which ones are most cost efficient?

Customer Relationships

The customer relationships building block describes the types of relationships a company establishes with specific customer segments.  A company should clarify the type of relationship it wants to establish with each customer segment.

What type of relationships does each of our customer segments expect us to establish and maintain with them?  Which ones have we established?  How costly are they?  How are they integrated with the rest of our business model?

Revenue Streams

The revenue streams building block represents the cash a company generates from each customer segment.  If customers comprise the heart of the business, revenue streams are it’s arteries.

For what value are our customers really willing to pay?  For what do they currently pay?  How are they currently paying?  How would they prefer to pay?  How much does each revenue stream contribute to overall revenues?

Key Resources

The key resources building block describes the most important assets required to make a business model work.  These key resources allow an enterprise to create and offer a value proposition, reach markets, maintain relationships with customer segments and earn revenues.

What key resources do our value propositions require?  Our distribution channels?  Customer relationships?  Revenue streams?

Key Activities

The key activities building block describes the most important things a company must do to make its business model work.  These activities are the most important actions a company must take to operate successfully.

What key activities do our value propositions require?  Our distribution channels?  Customer relationships?  Revenue streams? 

Key Partnerships

The key partnerships building block describes the network of suppliers and partners that make the business model work.  Companies forge partnerships for many reasons, and partnerships are becoming the cornerstone of many business models.

Who are our key partners?  Who are our key suppliers?  Which key resources are we acquiring from partners?  Which key activities do partners perform?

Cost Structure

The cost structure describes all the costs incurred to operate a business model.  These are the most important costs incurred while operating under a particular business model.

What are the most important costs inherent in our business model?  Which key resources are most expensive?  Which key activities are most expensive?

The building blocks above are essential to mapping out your areas of value creation and value extraction.  Paramount to any startup is the ability to identify the main components of their business.  Once visualized, it becomes much easier to identify where value is created, whom is involved, what direction the equation is flowing, which parties are involved, what partners your business depends on, which partners your business must depend on, etc…  You get the point.

I am not sure Groupon actually took these critical steps from the onset to determine proper business model generation, and now they are feeling the affects.  Here’s to you not making the same mistake.



Employees Want More Recognition Over More Money. Here’s How With Facebook

I think we we can all admit: corporate life can be at times, just plain boring.  That might be the main reason a large number of employees tend to meander over to social sites such as Facebook or Twitter to see what is going on outside the firewall.

But are social technologies really a distraction?  Or can they be used to actually enhance the morale and engagement of the workforce?

The Taraci Social MediaMgr™, from Taraci Motivation, is an incentive marketing application that allows organizations to host and run employee incentive marketing programs entirely through Facebook.  It allows an organization to integrate the social and communications tools of Facebook into traditional incentive marketing programs.  Their vision is to transform how organizations run incentive programs by helping them fully integrate the power of social media.

“According to Gallop , about 10% of employees are highly engaged and since profitability is tied to employee attitude and moral, it’s more important than ever to motivate employees,” says Tom Taraci.

Basically, they help corporations leverage Facebook to offer employee incentives to keep them happy.

Well, if you can’t beat em, join em!

It’s an intelligent move, leveraging Facebook to get more from your work force rather than just firewall it.  The underlying message sent to employees when blocking a site like Facebook is one of distrust.  Using Taraci Social MediaMgr let’s your employees know “you get it” and “you understand.”

For example, the ‘like’ feature can be used to show friends and family a product users like within the catalog. Opinions can be posted to the wall. Participants can also ‘send’ messages to friends, family and co-workers to get feedback on their product selection or to let them know about their achievements in the workplace.

Current Incentives can include:

  • Length of service — Rewards employees on their employment anniversary date
  • Sale incentives — Rewards salespeople for reaching their goals
  • Wellness programs — Rewards employees for achieving health & fitness goals
  • Safety programs — Rewards workers for reducing workplace accidents, reducing absenteeism
  • Recognition programs — Rewards employees for accomplishing a specific task, or tasks, over a period of time
  • Referral programs — Rewards employees or customers for recommending a new client
  • Loyalty Programs – Rewards employees for length of service to an organization
  • Casino Players Clubs – Rewards casino players with points for dollars wagered which can be redeemed for merchandise.

Incentive 2.o?

In the past, incentive programs were hosted on a standalone web site or simply through a printed catalog.  For corporations, it’s now possible to communicate real-time incentive marketing program updates, from adding rewards to celebrating winners.  Program administrators can also engage in a daily two-way dialogue with participants, not feasible with traditional online or print incentive programs.

It’s not a secret employees are spending more and more time on Facebook throughout the work day.   Corporations are realizing they need to join them in their environment, not just block the site.  The application is designed to improve corporations’ presence in social media by building their corporate communities and increasing the number of their followers on Facebook. By hosting the incentive program on corporate Facebook pages, there’s finally a way for corporations to connect with employees in an effective way through Facebook.

How it works

1 – A branded incentive marketing catalog is created for the corporation’s Facebook page by Taraci Motivation

2 – Once the program is officially launched, participants are directed to the corporation’s official Facebook Page

3 – By entering their username and password, employees can see their point totals and redeem rewards.

Recognition Over Money?

During this tough economic climate it’s more important than ever to motivate employees who are frustrated due to many factors, including constant downsizing, lack of promotions and salaries being frozen.   A simple  “Good Job” or public employee appreciation in front of other employees on a social application will go a long way to keep employees happy.    Looks like Taraci Motivation understands how employees actually feel, here is an interesting list of what employees say they want compared to what employers think employees want.  Quite the disconnect if you ask me.

Employees just want to be recognized.  They want it over more money, more interesting work, job security, or good working conditions.

Seriously, just telling your employees they are doing a good job, more publicly and more often will greatly increase your company morale.  I wish my last employer knew that.  Oh well…

According to Taraci, the response to the Taraci Social Media Mgr has been tremendous.  The Taraci Motivation Mgr was first released in May 2011 and enhancements are continually being added to the application. “We’re  set to launch a number of new programs on Facebook in Q4 and continue to be in active discussions with a variety of category leaders in travel, shipping, entertainment, finance, marketing, consumer products and services, and more.”

From the looks of it, maybe more corporations should look into Taraci Motivation.  I hope so… with 10% of the workforce highly engaged, companies need to do whatever it takes to keep their best employees happy.  I know I am.


Twitter, Linkedin, Facebook or Google+ Which Provides More Value?

Social applications have taken our world by storm the last few years and have indeed proven they are important utilities in our lives. I think it is safe to say some are mere vanity and fun; some are valuable resources to help us move forward in our life pursuits.

The question is: which is which?

I have to say LinkedIn – with the ability to keep me connected with important people in my industry, help distribute my writing as well as bring me updated with relevant industry articles and information each day – has positioned itself as the most valuable network in my life.  Consumer Privacy concerns aside, the future looks HUGE for LinkedIn.  I use LinkedIn pretty much every day, somehow someway.

Twitter is a close second.  It has helped distribute information as well as loosely connect me with thousands of people.  It’s potential to change the world is still largely untapped.  I check Twitter every day.

Facebook does not provide $100 billion worth of value in my life… do I really care about what all my old high school friends and other acquaintances are doing?  Harsh, yes.  But apparently it’s not very valuable to me.  It’s just something of a courtesy check every day or day to see the what’s going on in my friends lives.  But the problem is – I’m really not engaged with the network.  Will this change?

Google+ just seems to be skidding along right now with no real value proposition above and beyond all the others mentioned.  It is worthless to me at this point.  What say you?

I don’t care the valuation of each as a company; I am wondering which provides the most value to you as a user – every day.  I have a feeling the one with the highest valuation is not providing the most value… do you agree?   Answer why you feel the way you do in the comments.





Google Plus

Forget Governments; Here Is The One Thing Entrepreneurs Must Do To Save The World

Well folks, things are starting to look pretty bleak out there.  As an optimist I want to believe the future is brighter than the past, but I am having a hard time sleeping at night and imagining the days ahead won’t be filled with economic strife.

Shall we review some basic facts:

The U.S. debt ceiling has been raised by trillions – simply meaning we are sinking further down the quicksand without any help of getting out.

Do you realize one trillion dollars is a thousand BILLION dollars?  This is really getting out of hand.  It is pretty sad to realize our World Economic Powerhouse is actually just like the 24 year old post college grad who is taking out (and maxing) another credit card just to pay off the creditor calling them on the phone, while not even remembering when the specific credit line in question was taken out.

S&P has downgraded the U.S. credit rating from AAA to AA+, an unprecedented action initiating a period of economic uncertainty around the world with no clear ending in site.

What happens when the world loses total faith in the United States?

The tremors of volatility in the stock markets has recently increased in magnitude, with numerous daily slides of more the 4%, sending mini-shocks of fear and loathing through the psyche of any shareholder.

Go ahead, take a look at what happend in the years following the 1929 market crash…  sound familiar?

Here are some stats on the impending recession; it’s a great (but long) article but really places things in perspective.  Choice quote:

So, I guess I am going out on a limb, without any help from an inverted yield curve, and saying that we will be in recession within 12 months, if we are not already in one. This will be unlike any recession we have seen, as there is not much that can be done, other than to just get through it as best we can. Sit down and think about your own situation and prepare.

So after you sit down and think about your own situation, what should you do?  Well, if you are an entrepreneur I have a thought…

Understand How Your Business Adds Value To The World

Every entrepreneur need to take a tough look in the mirror and ask themselves what it really means to be in business.  The most basic tenets of business are profits, losses and margins.   As an owner, if you are not bringing in more money (adding value) than you are spending (extracting value), you will sink.   One would think the most important of those 3 is profits – and I do generally agree with that position – yet that may be precisely why we are now in this economic mess.  It turns out that profit above all else ends up creating more losses all around.  This, in my opinion, has led to our current toilet bowl effect where regardless of what happens we are circling further and further out of control.

A few questions worth considering when looking in the mirror:

Am I making a positive difference in the world?

Does my business add value to the world?  Or does it just extract value?

How can my business create an order of magnitude more value than the current solution?

Where is the government wasting money and how could I provide a better and cheaper solution?

Understanding how and where you add value to the world is just the first step; illustrating how you add value to the world is where you must focus your time and energy.  Having some sort of value quotient (if that is even possible) is where businesses worth can be easily quantified.  People need to know how you make the world a better place (socially, economically, environmentally) so they can start to make healthier world choices.

Specifically, I am referring to the question:  Is the world economically healthier because company “X” exists?  If there is not a resounding yes from the outside, I am afraid we will continue down this toilet.

Apple is now pretty much the most valuable corporation in the world, but do they really add value to the world?  Controversial statement, yes.  But of course a valid question, since people spend quite a bit of money on their consumer products.  How about the next company, Exon Mobile?  How much value are they adding to the world?  Arguably, they aren’t just extracting oil from the world…  And remember, these are the most VALUABLE companies in the world today.

The only way out from this mess is going to be through entrepreneurial fortitude.  Governments worldwide have only proven they are inept and cannot figure out how to spend less money.  It seems rather than actually ‘governing’ towards a solution, they are just ‘spending towards another problem’.   This does not work and we are now realizing how much we are in over our heads.   The world will be saved by entrepreneurial fortitude and finding a more efficient method to solving a societal problem.

The world is in desperate need right now of  smarter, more courageous, and innovative entrepreneurs who are not out to exploit current inequities but looking to reshape and save the world so their children will have something to actually live for.


Image courtesy of Flickr user Amagill.

Consero Is Like The Cool Group In High School, You Secretly Want To Be Invited

Paul Mandell found he was going to quite a few conferences each year yet he was leaving most of them feeling like he was not getting much value.   He felt they lacked timely content, as well as a useful networking experience.   As he looked around, it occurred to him maybe more people felt the same way.  He started to think about how to do these events better, how could he re-create the events industry so more value could come out of each event.  And just as any great entrepreneur would do, he decided to do something about it.

Founded in 2010, Consero is a leader in creating industry-specific events for senior-level executives.

Consero Forums are best known for offering a sophisticated learning environment with high-level content, as well as invaluable networking opportunities driven by Consero’s interactive, invitation-only format.

Although not a technology company, their innovative approach on transforming an established industry has caught my attention.   By forming advisory boards of executives from major corporations, as well as featuring a team of event veterans, Consero is developing the highest level of quality, timely content for each one of its Forums.

Attendees can expect an invitation only environment, meaning anyone attending was asked to be there for a certain reason.  This benefits them by providing a more efficient way to connect with other influential attendees and vendors.

In addition to content, Consero Forums are built to feature a valuable networking environment designed to stimulate new business for its innovative sponsors.  “The networking is far more superior, productive and the events are very focused on solid content” says CEO Mandell.   For example, Consero focuses on ensuring that sponsors meet with the most qualified executives who have expressed a demand for services and solutions based on their current and future initiatives.

The event industry is a $12.5 billion market that, at this point, has seen little to no change in the last 20 or 30 years.  I would say that screams “HUGE POTENTIAL” louder than as any standing ovation I have ever heard.

In just over a year, the company has experienced positive growth, including a 400 percent increase in revenues. In 2011, Consero will be hosting seven events, and they plan to double that number in 2012.  They recently moved into an expanded headquarters and are also doubling their staff this year.

A Lesson In Finding A Need

Headquartered in Bethesda, Maryland, Consero’s new model for events answers all of the pressing needs. At a Consero Forum, every attendee is in the top tier of management with respect to his/her company, and the unique format of intimate conference sessions, one-on-one meetings, and roundtable discussions looks to raise the bar on senior-level networking, thought leadership exchange, and collaborative learning altogether.

They recruit speakers who are industry insiders—people who have first-hand knowledge of today’s most pressing business issues.  They place a lot of emphasis on finding the right people, “to identify the right individuals, we spend a lot of time researching industries, news, and service offerings. Our team also brings to the table in-depth relationships with a variety of high-level executives and solution providers built over years in business.”

Currently the event topics include the legal industry, state and local Gov IT and customer experience.  But, it’s only a matter of time before your industry gets the Invitation Only bug.

In fact, just today they are announcing the 2011 Legal Technology Forum, which is taking place September 18 – 20, 2011 in San Diego, California at the Loews Coronado Bay Hotel.  Jessica Druckman, Founder and Vice President for Program Development of Consero, says, “The program for the Legal Technology Forum will focus on educating legal professionals on today’s most pressing issues, including the most effective ways to protect confidential company information in the age of social media, as well as how to leverage new technologies and processes to ensure efficient legal department management.”

The long term vision is to bring Consero’s model to other vertical niches where it can help improve the experience for both executives and solution providers.  Examples include Consero’s recent Intellectual Property Management & Monetization Forum as well as our upcoming Customer Experience Forum.   Additional Forums for each niche will be announced shortly as well as plans for overseas events.

Going All In

“”I started Consero with about $1,000,000 of personal savings and a home equity loan” says Paul.  “I also brought in experienced event veterans William Card and Jessica Druckman, who have been invaluable assets in the company’s early success.”  Among the lessons Paul learned in the early going include:

  1. Focus on attracting the best employees at every level of the organization. This is essential in any start-up’s long-term success.
  2. Learn every aspect of the financial side of the business. This knowledge is critical in long-term planning and helps to avoid cash-flow issues – especially for entrepreneurs who do not have a strong business accounting background.
  3. Delegate. As the founder, I knew it was necessary to bring in the right support team so I can free myself from administrative tasks associated with launching a company.

Below is the Consero executive team:

Paul Mandell is a Founder and the Chief Executive Officer of Consero. In this role, Mr. Mandell provides strategic leadership for the company with a rigid focus on excellence mat every level of the business.

William Card is a Founder and the Vice President for Business Development of Consero. In this role, he is responsible for working with solution providers and partners who seek to benefit from Consero’s world-class Forums.

Jessica Druckman is a Founder and the Vice President for Program Development of Consero. Ms. Druckman is responsible for conducting market research, writing program agendas, and organizing the faculties for Consero Forums. Through carefully-planned programming, Ms. Druckman ensures that Consero delegates leave each Forum with
practical business skills that spur corporate growth.


If You Think Your Weird Startup Deserves $500,000 – Read This Now!

Lighter Capital, a recently re-branded funding option, describes themselves as Entrepreneurs Funding Entrepreneurs.  They just announced they have up to $500,000 available and are looking to seed a “weird and Explosive” company.

According to Randall Lucas, Finance + Product, ” We’re a “lighter” approach to capital than the marble and granite of the banks, plus we try to keep a “lighter” attitude.  We help growing small businesses accelerate with access to small but meaningful amounts of capital, typically $100-500k.”  

They have a revenue-based lending structure which allows us to fund companies more quickly than banks and the structure is more flexible for entrepreneurs.  “We don’t buy shares, and we don’t look for traditional loan structures — instead, we buy a small % of the company’s revenues, up until some cap, as our repayment stream.  So we share the risks with the entrepreneur, and we are 100% aligned with the company on juicing revenue growth.”

I love their approach to investing in startups.   The problem they are attacking is the limited access to capital problem most startups face.  First, banks aren’t lending and the traditional debt structure is too restrictive during economic uncertainty (ie: can’t commit to debt payments if you aren’t sure about sales outlook).

Also, the VC model really only works for the “home-runs” so this approach makes sense for great businesses that make money but aren’t swinging for the fences. “We think businesses that make $1-5m/ year in revenue are great businesses and our long term vision is to make it super fast and simple for those businesses to get capital.”  They believe a company that’s doing $1 or $2 or $3 M in revenue, with potential to go to $10 M or $20M, is still an awesome opportunity and deserves access to capital.

“Our ultimate vision is to hook up this market opportunity with our technology back-end — and to help make “Capital-as-a-Service” a reality for these companies”, says Andy Sack, CEO.  In other words — the “lighter” version of going to meet 30 different VCs in Silicon Valley, or or putting on a tie to go to meet a banker, is to be able to apply online, from your couch, in your boxers, and get funded on a Sunday afternoon.

The idea is starting to spread.  Press, social media, brokers, partners, and referral networks of friends and business contacts are starting to talk about Lighter Capital (formerly RevenueLoan) as leaders in the Revenue-based Finance market.

Lighter Capital is aggressively putting their capital to work.  They’ve already put $1.1 M out in a number of investments, so they are already generating revenue and actively investing the rest of our first $6 M in capital.

Currently we get most of our deals through word of mouth and organic traffic on our site, but with the rebrand we’re really pushing to fund companies completely online

The Team – it’s a really entrepreneur-based team, they’ve all worked for startups before so they’ve seen the funding process first-hand.We are a pretty wacky, fun bunch … and not just saying that” says Randall.

If you are a startup and think you deserve $500,000, go here right now!

Ice-cream Is Great, But Utilities Make The World Go Around

Lately I have had a recurring theme running through my head – “didn’t I see that startup idea before, only with a different name?  Aren’t there more than a few startups doing this same  little sharing thing? ”  I believe we are witnessing another “bubblish” period of time, with valuations of young startups skyrocketing and investment money flowing like wine from Napa Valley.  When money starts flying from every which pocket so do the various copy cats and so called “Groupon’s for X industry” and “Airbnb for Y category” startups.  Ironically, creative innovation declines as similar business ideas get most of the available investment funding; I am not sure this is the best thing for the future of our economy.

Twitter co-founder Biz Stone recently commented “Everybody said ‘Twitter’s useless.’ To which my co-founder Evan Williams said, ‘Well so’s Ice Cream, you want us to ban Ice Cream and all joy?’ We said, ‘Screw that. We’ll just keep working on it.’”

This ice cream statement is referring to some people thinking Twitter and other social sharing applications are just petty fun but don’t serve much purpose and are not very important to the development of our economy.  Others believe the future lies in developing new technologies around people and infusing social in everything we do.  So who is right?

Well, let me go on record saying I beleive the application of social technology is indeed impacting our world and will continue to transform our society.  Yet, I will add a caveat to Stone’s point of view – ice cream is great, but ultilties make the world go around.  Ironies aside as Twitter becomes a utility to web users around the world, it ended up solving a problem we didn’t know we had at the time, which happened to be discovering people and distributing information.  But how many social companies are actually created with a strong economic value proposition in mind?  I think the point is very clear – when evaluating business and startup ideas, entrepreneurs and investors would be wise to focus their attention on things that solve a very strong need and plug into society’s daily function if they want to increase their odds of success.

Take a look at the following list below and observe what they all have in common:

Natural gas




Old Steam Companies

hydraulic power

public transit

postal services

Public Infrastructure

All those industries and the associated companies all have one major thing in common – they are a public utility.  Being a public utility implies they serve a very obvious consumer need and  are frequently used products and services (speaking generally from a consumer point of view).  As a business they should have no problem developing a customer base, since their product is a need all consumers inherently have.

I suggest entrepreneurs think in absolute terms when developing their products or services.  Using an understanding of where technology is going, founders can anticipate aspects of everyday life which can be turned into utilities.  Here are a few things to consider:

  • What types of problems and challenges are consumers facing each day?
  • What problems are still served with older technological paradigms and are in need of more efficient solutions?
  • What types of industries have become ‘utilities’ and why?
  • What consumer activities seem to be more common place and will become utilities tomorrow?
Below are just a few examples of entrepreneurs viewing business as a utility.  Not an exhaustive list by any means, but they can serve as examples of clever business strategy and positioning.

 Schwab  and Wharton –  Steel

Steel was foundational utility as our country expanded from a small “startup” into the economic powerhouse of the 20th century.  Due to the expansion of the steel industry, railways, buildings, cars and other major industries advanced.  From wikipedia:

The Bethlehem Steel Corporation ascended to great prominence in American industry, installing the revolutionary grey rolling mill and producing the first wide-flange structural shapes to be made in America. These shapes were largely responsible for ushering in the age of the skyscraper and establishing Bethlehem Steel as the leading supplier of steel to the construction industry.

Edison – Electricity

Electricity, ala Thomas Edison, brought light to our night as well as power to our life.  Imagine a world without electricity… it is almost impossible to live in the 21st centuty (at least in the developed world) without this incredible utility.  Think about all the other multi-billion dollar industries that have been born and brought forth because electricity became widespread technology everyone could use.

Ford – Automobile

Although Henry Ford did not invent the automobile, he brought it (and mass manufacturing) to the general population.  With the introduction of the affordable car, consumers were able to travel more than a couple miles to spend their hard earned money, a transforming affect on the young US economy.  Commercial malls, retail centers, Supermarkets and many other industries were born from the advent of the automobile.  From the book American Entrepreneur:

Autos fundamentally changed transportation from a collective undertaking, whether in boats or railcars, to a principally individual experience.  Cars represented independence, not only freeing people from the confines of the city but from restrictions imposed by a particular geographic region. 

Gates – Software

Bill Gates had a vision – a computer on every desk!  Unofficially, he has achieved his vision and then some.  Shouldn’t it now be referred to as ‘a computer in every hand/pocket’?  But, who is keeping score…  Gates and Microsoft built the software found in almost all computers available, bringing to life the PC  revolution and birthing the connected world we live in today.  Productivity of Private, Public as well as Personal lives has greatly increased because of the software industry Gates created.

Zuckerberg – Social networks

As web connected devices continue to drive our daily activities, no one company has a better position to lead the charge in our new world as does Facebook.  Mark Zuckerberg, at a ripe young age of 19, saw we would interact with devices, the web and people around the world in a whole new way.  In creating and growing Facebook, he established a platform users now consider a daily communications tool.  What can be built off it still mostly remains a mystery, but his vision of a utility is quite clear.

As a brieft list, these visionary individuals are amongst many others who transformed our world through groundbreaking businesses.  Importantly, all of them viewed their concepts through a utilitarian eye, observing where human life currently had a problem and how their company could offer a solution.  Find a need and fill it.  Serve a strong purpose in consumers’ everyday life.  Have a vision of a wide-spread platform, or a unique position where a multitude of new industries can be spawned from your one idea.  I believe that is the best position to start with when evaluating a new business venture.


Image courtesy of Flickr user Daniele Sartori.

Branding – Most Important But Usually Overlooked

Branding is one of the most important aspects of building a company (or persona) but it is so often overlooked.  Consider what Larry Popelka recently wrote:

Most consumers no longer shop for products. They shop for a company. With a plethora of product choices, it has become far too difficult and time-consuming to attempt to evaluate each offering. It is much easier to determine if the company you’re buying from shares your values and is likely to provide a good experience.

As a consumer, I most definitely agree with Larry.  How can you take the time to evaluate each product choice to determine the best quality, best price and most environmentally friendly?  You can’t, it’s impossible.   This is why Branding has become so important, it’s basically a short cut and a time saver to help us make buying decisions.

I touched on this in an earlier post positioning Apple vs Microsoft.  I focused mostly on how the leadership differences between Steve Jobs and Steve Ballmer is determining the direction of each company.  Yet, included in that equation is the respective brands they have built.

Apple – sleek, stylish, different, consumer friendly, trendy.

Microsoft – Techy, corporate, windows, software, stiff.

Although both are great (and hugely profitable) companies, the brands could not be any more different.  In the previous post I go to great lengths and in detail as to who is the better bet for the future.  It’s all about the Brand.

This can also apply when building a personal brand.  There are millions and millions of people in the work force, and quite frankly, they are all your competition.   When 100 people apply for a position or a board of directors is evaluating 5 executives looking for one to become the new CEO, personal branding and what each person is known for will be a huge influence and make the difference between receiving an offer or not.  This is one of the main reasons I have started to write and reach out to so many different people in the technology and startup communities.  I understand I must work just as hard to build my personal brand – what other people believe I am to be – as I am working to build a company brand.  I know it will be a difference maker sometime in the near future.

Lessons for founders and entrepreneurs:

  • Define your Brand; determine what you are and what you stand for as an executive and as a company
  • Describe it in detail but simplify the meaning for people so they will remember you
  • Align your Brand and your market positioning to connect with your target market
  • Connect your Brand with a deeper consumer purpose

Image courtesy of Flickr user NiallKennedy.

Are You Protecting The Past or Creating The Future?

It’s a simple question but has huge ramifications.

Protecting the past means you are holding onto the past, looking backward worrying about how to preserve what you have.  The is reactive and will not give you the edge needed to be successful.

  • Newspapers are protecting their old antiquated ways to distribute information
  • The music labels are protecting their rights to music distribution, sinking the industry
  • Traditional book stores tried to preserve their old ways of distributing books, and lost to Amazon

Creating the future means you are always forward thinking; searching and thinking for new ways to compete and produce in your industry.  This is proactive and will lead to breakthroughs.

  • Information networks like Twitter looked forward and figured out how to serve people real-time news and information
  • Apple understood people wanted to purchase on track at a time and integrate the entire experience into itunes
  • Amazon looked ahead to find out people want a more simple reading experience, and created the Kindle.

The direction your neck is pointed will determine your direction in life.  Choose wisely.