Creating Your Own Wake

As a founder your survival is a function of how you create your own wake.

Wikipedia defines a wake as:

A wake is the region of recirculating flow immediately behind a moving or stationary solid body, caused by the flow of surrounding fluid around the body. There is formation of vortex in the wake which is the region of low pressure in it.

…The formation of these waves in liquids is analogous to the generation of shockwaves in compressible flow, such as those generated by rockets and aircraft traveling supersonic through air.

wake

Circulating flow.

Vortex.

Pressure.

Shockwaves.

If you read the entire definition you’ll likely get lost in a hell of a lot of science but those are the words that jump out to me when I read the definition of wake. It doesn’t just apply only to water either, if we could see movements of air we’d be seeing the impacts of wakes and shockwaves all around us.

To me, in human terms wake simply means your lasting impact on the world around you.

I have been thinking about this phenomenon recently since I made the leap back into entrepreneurship as a founder, (re)discovering all the painful and challenging issues you deal with as you are just starting out. So many things are working against you and the inertia of the world is quite similar to the inertia of water. A boat doesn’t create a wake unless its moving. Same for us. Forward progress in life requires some sort of energetic force to drive you forward, pushing against the inertia of the world and creating a wake that ripples outwardly away from you and positively impacting others around you.

There’s some social science for ya.

One of the most important lessons I learned in the last couple of years is you can make the entrepreneurial path a little easier by creating a wake around/behind yourself. This is not easy, because it requires effort and energy to do things we generally don’t want to do.  Going above and beyond our normal comfort zone to stand out is almost the antithesis to what we as humans feel we want to be doing each day/week/month.

But standing out – creating a wake impacting others – is what is required of you as a first time founder who is desperately wanting to make it to the next level. That or get lost in the thousands of others vying for the same attention, money and position.

What would a wake look like in real life? How would it involve humans, social interactions, business decisions, etc?

I find the key to gaining an edge when just starting out is finding specific actions to take to create a wake in an industry – shockwaves that keep spreading and impacting people you might not even have direct contact with.

Start writing on topics people in your industry might find interesting, posting them on social media and guest posting on other media outlets. Who cares what you write about (okay that’s kind of harsh but you get what I am saying) and what others might comment on, just having a voice and putting it out there places you at the top 10% in your industry. Be consistent in your writing efforts and don’t worry your audience will find you. Create video or other visual content which is entertaining and educational and that others can share with their networks. It doesn’t exactly matter what you record and put out, it just matters that you start and don’t stop so others start to recognize you. Organize local events and meetups around relevant industry topics so you can help others connect with each other. Be seen and be known. Work on and release products which are both interesting and have high potential to change your industry. Who knows, you might learn something new! Carry yourself, shake hands and talk in a way where people will be impressed.

These are the things people remember, they are what people share with others and what sticks in a room once you leave. That’s your wake.

 

Founders RAW: Rahul Sood – How to Build A Luxury Brand

I recently sat down for a Founders RAW conversation with Rahul Sood to talk about entpreneurship and various aspects of startup life. Rahul is cofounder and CEO of Unikrn, a Mark Cuban backed startup in the massively growing esports industry. Below is a short clip on how to build a luxury brand.

Coasting To Perfection

Am I doing all I can each day to reach my own pinnacle in life? Have I done everything possible to become the person I was created to be or am I just coasting along the highway…?

A post today piqued my interest and spurred this intense inner monologue. MG Siegler writes about a recent SI article on Michael Phelps which details his comeback and rehabilitation from alcohol related incidents.  The article touches on a variety of events in his career but what jumped out to me was a very interesting and possibly troubling assessment by Phelps himself, where he simply admits he has never given it his all. Ever. Even after numerous Olympics and all the medal records he feels he under-performed and still has his best inside him. Siegler ties that thought back to all of us:

“we don’t often hear about someone at the pinnacle of what they’re doing also failing to give their all — and yet, that’s clearly the case with Phelps….. And so in a way, I think that’s a more interesting point from which to look inward. If you’re really fucking up and squandering your talents, it’s pretty obvious for everyone to see. But what if you’re only not “giving it your all” and coasting on doing the minimum to still be successful — even very successful? Or maybe not even the minimum, but something less than all you’ve got. I think a lot of people are guilty of this. Maybe even most people. Certainly I am, in some regard.”

So I ask you, are you just coasting through your life?

It’s a troubling thought if you really consider the question when its asked another way: will you ever reach your full potential with your current output of energy, focus and determination?

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I ponder this question quite a bit and maybe it’s the reason I have a number of current projects/companies ongoing in my life. It’s almost as if I can’t not do them. I don’t want to ever look back and realize I could have done more, that I should have applied myself more fully to the things and people in my life, and that I coasted lazily while others looked upon me with slight disappointment knowing I was fully talented and capable of greatness but in the end never doing anything worthwhile.

Wasted talent they’d say.

This is why I push myself to write even on days when I don’t want to or don’t feel like it. I want to follow my writing talent as far as it will possibly take me.

This is why I get in front of the camera and shoot more Founders RAW conversations.  Setting aside the enjoyment I get from doing them it’s not easy being comfortable in front of a camera and I believe people need to hear the messages we are putting out. I also want to follow my talent in media creation as far as it will possibly take me.

This is why I get on stage in front of hundreds of people each month and host Feature Friday events in Seattle – a monthly event which highlights 5 new up-and-coming area startups. This pushes me to become very comfortable on stage in front of crowds and calms the public speaking nerves, a wise move given public speaking is the #1 fear in the world.

This is why I push myself to build new apps and create whole new companies. I don’t ever want to find myself out of the loop on the latest trends, as well as sometimes it just takes a few cycles before the big idea takes hold.

This is not rocket science but I do these things so that I get better at them until a time comes where they are second nature to me. This is the 10,000 hours stuff Malcolm Gladwell talks about. It is said by the time the Beattles led the “British Invasion” with Beattlemania and brought their music into America they had already played together as a band live so many times they had eclipsed their 10,000 hours threshold and were very very tight as a band. That’s why they were so damn good so early on.

But it didn’t come overnight.

The Beattles believed – as I am starting to now – you are only as good as you choose to be. And “to choose” means you determine to do whatever it takes, however long it takes, with whatever means you have at your disposal to achieve you potential. Anything less is just cheating yourself and the greater world in the process.

Some have it easy you might say. They are naturally talented and without doing EVERYTHING THEY CAN they turn out to be Olympic champions and record setters. LeBron James, Michael Phelps, ect.. Simply more talented than anyone else. I say good for them.

But I am more impressed with the one who wasn’t God gifted with the most talent in the world yet works so diligently at their craft they become one with it, they become the legends we read about. The Wright Brothers. Steve Jobs, etc. The ones who came from nowhere, with no money and no connections, no Ivy League schooling, no Silver Spoon or lucky sperm club card to show off.

These people will it into existence. They are the ones we love to read about and crave to hear speak in public.

My guess is you fit that bill just as I do. So do yourself a favor each day and ask yourself if you are giving it your all – and be honest with your answer. My guess is you’ll be surprised at how much farther within yourself you can dig.

Do Something Everyday That Terrifies You

1805756738_ec05607189_zHere’s some advice that might be scary to you: Do something everyday that terrifies you.

It’s a simple sentence yes, but its consequences reach far and wide. Having courage to do things that scare you is the essence of growth and progress, in both your personal and professional life.

I noticed this phenomenon recently in my own life when I chose to start meditating every day. Before I started, I viewed mediation as a foreign activity, something only eastern religions practiced. But actually, I was scared about doing it for some weird reason, namely because it was new and different to me.

Yet I decided to lean into my fear, push it aside and dive right in. Five months later and I am still going strong, maybe missing one day per week on the weekends when something comes up in the morning and I am not able to sit quietly. I can’t even describe the benefits I have enjoyed and the new growth opportunities I have opened up simply because I am sitting quietly each day and contemplating this crazy world we live in.

I also learned doing terrifying things are good for the soul when I reach out to people and sit down with them for a Founders RAW conversation. More and more of my guests are noteworthy people who have founded well known companies or are successful in their previous ventures.

I think to myself “they get hit up all the time so why would they answer my email? And why would they want to talk with me anyway?!”

But you know what?

I send it anyway.

And they answer it!

Meeting set, great conversation had, sweet new Founders RAW video for you all to watch, and new contact/friend made.

All because I chose to be uncomfortable and reach out to someone who might turn me down or not respond to my request. It’s crazy how your mind twists reality to scare you from doing things each day that would totally change your life. You have to acknowledge the warning but then push past it.

Ask for the sale.

Ask the guy or girl out.

Ask the investor for more money.

Jump off the cliff into the water.

Write the blog post you’ve been thinking about.

Smile at the stranger.

Talk to the stranger.

Post the picture.

Build the prototype.

Recruit the team.

Start the company.

Ask for the raise.

Join the new company offering you a promotion.

Move to the new city if you feel the pull.

Guys and girls – the principle works. Do something new and scary each day of your life and you’ll be shocked at what happens next.

Leading A Few Panels During Seattle Startup Week

This coming week is Seattle Startup Week, a free five-day event highlighting the amazing startup culture of the Puget Sound. It looks like there will be more than 100 events happening over the next week and should be very fun, entertaining and educational.

In fact, I will be participating in 2 of them as I will be leading panel discussions both Tuesday and Wednesday evenings. Below are quick descriptions of each event. If you are free either one of those nights you should come check them out. Here’s the entire schedule.

Pick The Brains of Local Angel Investors and VC’s 

(Tues Oct. 27th at 6pm)

Learn from local Angel investors and VCs in Seattle  about what they look for in a company when they invest.We will be inviting local Angel investors and Venture Capitalists to get insights on the process they use when investing in startups.

Moderators

Nick Hughes

Director of Business Development, Knotis
Nick is an entrepreneur with achievements in e-commerce, digital payments and technology start-ups. He excels at interpersonal communication and leadership, business strategy and product management. | | Currently Director of Business Development for local e-commerce focused Knotis, Nick previously founded the mobile payment startup Seconds as well as recently forming Coinme, a new company built around expanding bitcoin and digital… Read More →


Speakers


Josh Maher

Angel Investor
Josh Maher is the author of Startup Wealth: How the Best Angel Investors Make Money in Startups (http://amzn.to/1NUAoz4). Startup Wealth delivers engaging interviews with early-stage investors in Google, Invisalign, ZipCar, Uber, Twilio, Localytics, and other successful and not so successful companies.  | He’s a passionate supporter of the Seattle startup community, President of Seattle Angel, a non-profit focused on education at the…Read More →


Yi-Jian Ngo

Managing Director, Alliance of Angels
Yi-Jian Ngo, Managing Director, leads the Alliance of Angels. A network engineer by training, Yi-Jian stumbled into the startup world when AT&T rebooted its corporate venture fund and recruited him as a founding team member. Working closely with entrepreneurs and helping them build their companies turned out to be such a blast that he continued that work at Microsoft. Most recently, he was a venture capitalist at Sierra Ventures, where… Read More →


Tim Porter

Managing Director, Madrona Venture Group
Tim is focused on investing in B2B software companies in the Pacific Northwest. He currently is particularly interested in the areas of SaaS applied to both horizontal and vertical applications, cloud infrastructure and automation, data analytics, security, and enterprise mobile. He is a board member or board observer of numerous Madrona portfolio companies. In addition to his work at Madrona, Tim is a member of the three-person Investment… Read More →

Gary Rubens

CEO, Start it Labs
Founded ATGStores.com in 1999 – sold to Lowe’s Home Improvment 2012, Founded Architectural Details, inc in 1990- sold to private buyer in 2007, expertise in ecommerce, online advertising and business growth.He invests in more than 50 companies.
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Raise Capital Like A Superstar

(Wed Oct. 28th at 6:30pm)
Learn from some of the most successful startup capital raisers that received nearly and more than 10M$ in funding. Local CEOs and CFOs and startup founders will share their experiences and advice and learn how to raise capital like a superstar!

Moderators

Nick Hughes

Director of Business Development, Knotis
Nick is an entrepreneur with achievements in e-commerce, digital payments and technology start-ups. He excels at interpersonal communication and leadership, business strategy and product management. | | Currently Director of Business Development for local e-commerce focused Knotis, Nick previously founded the mobile payment startup Seconds as well as recently forming Coinme, a new company built around expanding bitcoin and digital… Read More →


Speakers

Aviel Ginzburg

Co-Founder, Simply Measured

James Gwertzman

CEO, PlayFab, Inc.
James Gwertzman is the CEO and Co-Founder of PlayFab, a Seattle-based company that helps game developers future proof their games with an industry leading live game operations platform. James has over 15 years of experience as a senior executive in the games industry. He believes strongly in the power of alignment, empowerment, and transparency to build truly great business. Prior to PlayFab, James founded and then led the Asia operations for… Read More →

Michael Schutzler

CEO, Washington Technology Industry Association
Michael Schutzler is a successful chief executive with over 30 years experience in  | rapid growth, start-up, and turn-around ventures. As a successful Internet  | entrepreneur, angel investor, and CEO advisor, he has helped raise over $50 Million  | in financing for more than a dozen companies and has served as a coach and mentor  | to more than 50 founders. | Michael spent the first part of his career in the telecom… Read More →

Founders RAW is BACK!

After a year long break, I am excited to announce we are back to filming more Founders RAW conversations.  We filled our need for a new film crew with the addition of Shinebox Films and quickly got to work to complete two new conversations.

For the uninitiated, here’s why I started Founders RAW:

“Founders RAW is actually an experiment.  As founders of an early stage startup we quickly realized how difficult starting a company can be.  And being part of the larger startup community in Seattle we discovered we weren’t alone in our crazy, mind-blowing experiences – apparently others have them too.  The idea started to form once we noticed the frequency of finding ourselves 30 minutes deep in truth sharing and wisdom dropping conversations with founder friends.  We wondered if others would be interested in what we have learned, so we figured why not to bring a camera.  I guess we’ll see what happens.

Founders RAW is a video blog with conversation style interviews focused on bringing out raw stories early stage founders experience in their challenging entrepreneurial journeys.  We invite founders to talk openly over a beer or a coffee about the “truth” of how they survive and grow their companies.  We post the full conversations on the blog but really, who has time to watch 45 minutes of video?  So we slice up the conversations and post nuggets each day as well as send out daily videos no more than 3 or 4 minutes long to blog subscribers.    Now we all can receive daily nuggets of the entrepreneurial truth.”

This year’s guest’s will include founders from Ghostruck, Unikrn as well as a prominent Seattle Angel Investor along with others to follow. You will see more on those when we complete the editorial process, but I wanted to highlight a handful of conversations we had over the last few years to get you back in the mood.

Brewster Stanislaw, cofounder of Inside Social

Marc Weiser, Founder of RPM Ventures

Simon Crosby, Founder of Bromium

Adam Lieb, Founder of Duxter

Bubbles And Golden Ages… Continued

The following post is an adaptation from the original one I posted on this topic in May of 2011.

I once watched an interview where Fred Wilson offhandedly noted reading a book which transformed the way he looked at markets and the web in general.  I instantly went to Amazon and ordered it and spent the next week reading it front to back.  Whew… it changed my life as well.  I up and quit my job the next month.  Thanks Fred.

Not a day goes by in 2015 we don’t hear the word bubble in some capacity or another. We are on pace for one of the biggest years in Venture Capital deployment since the dot com bubble of 2000. Massive private funding rounds in excess of $1 billion (Uber, et al) coupled with the sickening obsession of Unicorns have created a market with flu like symptoms. Although I cannot predict the future I tend to agree with others who publicly state it feels like we are in for a correction here very soon. If you are a founder of an early stage company, it would do justice to understand the cycle we are in, where exactly we are in it, and what you should do in your specific situation.

Technological Revolutions and Financial Capital by Carlota Perez is one of the greatest overviews of the incredible economic phenomenon known as the bubble.   What we are currently going though – recessions and expansions, bubbles and bursts, highs and lows, whatever you want to call them – they are inevitable.  In fact, the history of the entire world economy is one big cycle which repeats itself over a period of about 60 years.  I cannot do this entire book justice, just take my word for it, go buy it and read it yourself.  You will publicly thank me later just as I just thanked Fred now.  But I will introduce the general phases a new technology (paradigm) encounters so the “layman” technologist, marketer, social media guru or business person can start to see a clearer economic picture.

I hope I am not being too being blunt, but without grasping this concept you are swimming with your cap over your eyes.  You need to understand what is actually going on in this crazy economic world we live in.

Irruption

As a new technology is developed and deployed into our society, it will enter a cycle of adoption.  Interestingly, Perez notes new technologies are created during the maturity phase of the last great technology expansion.  So although we are starting with the irruption phase, let us take for granted the specific technology has already been created and diffused through very early adopter communities.  During the irruption phase, we see a slowing or declining of the old industries and an early adoption of a new technology.  Carlota notes:

The very intense activity of the new paradigm carriers contrast more and more with the decline of the old industries.  A techno-economic split takes place from then on, threatening the survival of the obsolete and creating conditions that will force modernization.

Old print media anyone?  Taxing industry vs Uber and other on-demand ride services? This irruption phase is started with a big bang (invention and initial diffusion) and will propagate within a small community of early adopters.  Note the image above, depicting very low diffusion, even to a point the general masses dismissing the technology altogether.  Amazingly it is contained within this tight group of people and industries for some period of time.  That is until a tipping point is hit. Today, most people who have taken an Uber or Lyft ride – if given a choice – will only take uber from here on out.

Frenzy

Frenzy is a period of massive growth for a new technology.  It is a time of new market creation as well as for rejuvenating old industries.  Once a critical mass of consumers have been hit, the diffusion of the paradigm takes center stage.  Individualism rules the land, as does speculation, wealth creation and ultimately resulting in over-investment flooding the market.   

Frenzy is the later phase of the installation period.  It is a time of new millionaires at one end and growing exclusion at the other, as in the 1880’s to 1890’s, the 1920’s and the 1990’s.   In this phase, financial capital takes over; its immediate interests overule the operation of the whole system.

Notice the part about the growing polarization between the rich and the poor.  Sound familiar? Capital investments soar during this time, creating a false sense of wealth creation.  This craze attracts more and more individuals wanting to get a piece of the action; so late frenzy is financial bubble time.

Turning point

At some point, the bubble has to burst.   Things that go up must come back down.  Interestingly, the turning point is neither an event or a phase, rather it is a process of contextual change. 

The turning point has to do with the balance between individual and social interests within capitalism.  It is the swing of the pendulum from the extreme individualism of Frenzy to giving greater attention to collective well being, usually through the regulatory intervention of the state and the active participation of other forms of civil society.

The turning point is a space for social rethinking and reconsidering.  It is, in fact, the time when the mode of growth that will shape the next few decades is defined.  I would argue we have been in this phase for a while, maybe starting 5-8 years ago After picking up the pieces of the crash of the early 2000’s we are now starting to see realignment in almost every industry known to man.  Name an industry that is not currently being touched by the internet and mobile?  Exactly.



Synergy

This is a time for production.  Since the foundations and infrastructures were laid out during the previous phases, conditions are there for dynamic expansion and economies of scale.   The diffusion of the new paradigm now reaches far and wide, is accepted as standard, and now governs supreme.  It is a time for promise, work and hope.  For many, the future looks bright.   

Synergy is the early half of the deployment period.  This phase can be the true ‘golden age’.  It is likely to be the closest the system ever comes to convergence within the economy of the core countries of the system.

Mary Meeker anyone?  She has identified this expansion phase quite eloquently, particularly in the mobile space.  I would argue we are still at the turning point but on the cusp of this synergy phase.  We should expect to observe massive expansion and economies of scale in almost every industry imaginable for the next few decades.  New industries and markets will emerge.  Old ones will finally die off.  Will it be all golden?  I am not so sure.  But if history is any indication, we shall see an expansion of scale only experienced once every 60 or 70 years.

It was this exact point in the book which urged me finally jump off the fence and into my entrepreneurial pursuits full time.      

Maturity

Once again, the cycle continues.  Every paradigm has a shelf life and can only survive so long.  As it enters maturity, deep questions are asked about the system and the climate is favorable for politics and ideological confrontation.  Markets are saturating and technologies are maturing.  

Gradually the paradigm is taken to its ultimate consequences until it shows up its limitations... yet all the signs of prosperity are still around.  Those who reaped the full benefits of the ‘golden age’ continue to hold onto their belief in the virtues of the system and to proclaim eternal and unstoppable progress, in a complacent blindness, which could be called the ‘Great Society Syndrome’.

During maturity, the stage is set for the decline of the whole mode of growth and for the next technological revolution.  Since we are entering a synergy phase, I will not spend much time on maturity.  According to Perez, the next maturity phase should not be entered for quite some time and the decline of our current paradigm should not influence ones innovation or investment perspective.  Yet it is always smart to keep an eye on something like this.  Interestingly, it is in this period inventors and innovators are tinkering with what will eventually become the next great paradigm.  This begs the question:  What will supplant the internet?  I would suggest not worrying much about the answer to that question and take advantage of the current conditions.  According to Perez, it should be quite good for years to come.

The lesson I see here is to know that we are in a smaller bubble within a larger economic cycle.  The smaller bubbles grow and pop fairly regularly with the net result of growth throughout the 60-70 year larger cycle.  The key is to make sure you have made the correct decisions to protect yourself and your company from the small bubble gyrations.