Monday, July 20, 2009

Irregardless, I could care less, oops.

The world is full of rule breakers, but also full of people making the same mistakes. It comes from a simple delusion that your past actions were correct without a pause to evaluate whether they were ACTUALLY correct.

Every situation is different, as a first step, reaching back to your experience 'shelf' will fail without using a bit of brain power.

Even worse? reaching over to an experience shelf that is not your own. Most people make more mistakes than they succeed. Including me.

Boot up your brain for a mere five seconds and you will make better evaluations of your choices, it takes longer to make the choice though.

By opening up your choices, even those that are obviously wrong, you get closer to the most likely to succeed choice. Five seconds, no more, changes your life.

Even with my average intelligence, coupled with a willingness to work hard, I am only 'right' 51% of the time. Not bad, but I have trouble figuring out which things I did right.

A mistake I see so often in 'tech land' is the 'follow' effect. The true entrepreneur is not on the 'train' but is building the TRACK. Which are you? Sh*t? which am I..hmm...

Resist the need to follow what you see at conferences or on popular blogs. It is just a different kind of experience shelf. Is it valuable? yes. Should it fuel you? yes. Does it define your choice list? no, but often it does.

History repeats itself because people think they did the right thing in the past and then apply it to the current decision. Stop for five seconds, recognize that now is different, open up your choice list and define your own path.

Note to self: read this post over and over.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

The Curse: Toilet Seats and Windshield Wipers

It started years ago, over coffee, two men, acting like boys discussing the concept of true design. The question was asked (not by me), 'Is it really possible that the best design for getting rain off your windshield (windshield wipers) was nailed on the first try?

Unlikely. But this rhythmic use of rubber has remained unchanged since.

God bless Mary Anderson.

The Curse. Looking at everything and evaluating whether there is a better way.

At first it just takes over those 'boredom' segments of your life; long traffic lights, lunch meetings with morons, writing blog posts, etc.

Then it starts to take over your brain during important things; hitting 80mph in rush hour traffic, baseball games of your kids, date night with your spouse (God bless my wife).

I see improvement opportunities everywhere. An idea 'guy' is the label applied to this phenomenon. It is a curse. Idea guys get no respect. We know why, but I'll state the obvious anyway, it is only 1% of the game, 99% is execution.

This is often what entrepreneurs miss. Not the execution, most entreprenuers can execute, when focused but the actual understanding and belief they don't realize is that ideas are only 1% of success. It is why top down revenue models are still built, it is why more features are added to already bloated products, it is why silly marketing schemes are thought of after initial slow growth; points systems, superbowl viral commercials, blah blah.

Should I go on? you say yes? I won't.

It is why entrepreneurs fail. The inability to 'recognize' that execution is the key, not the idea.
Stop with the ideas already. Think about 'what do I have that I could sell right now?'

So you consider yourself an entrepreneur, an idea guy. Ok, fine. I agree, it is cool to think about stuff, fun to imagine, exciting to 'pitch' the idea to others. You don't see the invisible brickwall in the near distance, and when you hit it, it is built higher by the idea gremlins, the more ideas you get, the quicker they build it, what do you do?

In order to break the curse, or at least subdue it with a self inflicted anti-dote, stop, or at least yield your brain and refocus on the plan to execute.

Key Point: What do I have and who is willing to pay for it? If you don't do this, You lose.

Do you feel yourself coming up with 'ideas'? Yield my friend, pause, slow down.
The only plan you should be thinking about is connecting (1) what you have with (2) the people who want it.

Now that I've frustrated you with what you didn't want to hear, What's up with the toilet?

First, a piece of history myth, the toilet was not invented by a guy named Crapper. So says Snopes. Although still funny to believe it to be true.

I found an improvement to the toilet seat. I state this like "I" came up with the idea, not me, I'm still working on windshield water displacement. Who would have thought possible, I know Mary Anderson is thinking 'no f'n way'...

I found this seat at Home Depot, not even knowing that it even existed. What a fantastic design for family's with small kids (the people who want it). This 'idea' executed well is for a small seat to be magnetically attached to the inside of the adult seat. It looks normal, acts normal and serves all attendees.

God bless this toilet seat.

I am surprised, but shouldn't be that every day people have the ability to connect the idea/execution paradigm.


Thursday, May 21, 2009

Lawnmower Bum

This story is something I have reflected on more often and more often as 'the economy' causes belts to tighten. It is a true story. Witnessed by two people, I am one.

It is about a story of tenacity without resources.

I don't like the word Bum in my title, but it is very descriptive and applicable here.

Let me first say that this story involves two locations, my former home in Springville UT and the outdoor playground called Moab. The distance between these places per google maps is 186 miles. 186 miles on US 6, one of the top 10 dangerous highways in all of the USA.

With God as my witness (and my friend Jarom), I saw a homeless man riding a lawnmower on US 70 near the exit to Moab. It was the month of March.

Then a month later, I saw the same guy, on the same lawn mower at the mouth of Spanish Fork Canyon...186 MILES difference.

Think on this a bit. Whew. 186 miles at what 5 mph? Where did he get gas? where did he eat? sleep? and above all..Why?

Every new entrepreneur 'loathes' the fact that someone who has 'been there done that' gets funding without kissing ass or pitching 1,000 times. Even if they failed before.

The reason is quite simple. It takes a significant amount of personal tenacity to live and breath with your product. If you don't quit, it says something about who you are as a person.

I wish I could find Lawnmower Bum, I'd hire him to be my VP of Something. Shame on me for not stopping and giving him a hand.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Self Interest - Adam Smith says GO!

Does a celebrity get behind a cause without being first impacted?
Maybe, but probably not. Therefore their actions are selfish in nature first, then self less.

As you read this, you may think I'm insensitive to others, but I'm really just thinking about my own lack of action related to causes I'm not impacted by personally.

It relates to this blog how? Web 2.0 basics.

Web 2.0 is misunderstood by investors and entrepreneurs alike. As I often do, I'll attempt to connect, through some way off metaphor, how entrepreneurs can pay attention. Know the difference, think better and waste less of your precious resource, time and money.

Adam Smith (click here if you said who?) first defined Web 2.0 in his often controversial book, the Wealth of Nations.

The concept of the 'invisible hand' is one where there are unintentional benefits from the selfish pursuits of individuals. For example, the attention our country has from Michael J. Fox's pursuit of Parkinson's reasearch.

The Web 2.0 entrepreneur is after the 'intentional', albeit maybe invisible to the user, benefits of selfish pursuit.

So much talk (yap yap) about community and user reviews to build value. Ok, agree, there is value there. But it's not the unintentional benefit, those things are intentional. Ever see the first review of a book? is it every not GLOWING? It still fools some people though, but most of us know the writer or publisher, or manager, or someone with self interest wrote that. There is an entire industry of consultants that pursue 'social marketing'. Those are intentional mechanisms.

Really want to see the impact? sort the reviews by 'negative first' and you'll have a different view. Even THOSE are full of intentional sabotage, although maybe not as much, most people are good.

It is a very elusive model. It is dependent upon passive collection of data and then using it for the benefit of the 'next' customer and so on. Buzz word = collective intelligence.

Even ebay, the 'often used example' of feedback system. It is still active, not passive. People must feel compelled, which has little selfish purpose other than the 'ass kissing' you leave me good feedback and I'll leave you good feedback. Adam Smith would passively roll in his grave.

Here is a very simple serivce, but one I feel describes best the concept of selfish purpose with unintentional positive consequesnces. ISNSFW (is not suitable for work)

Simply, you use this service to 'put a rating' on links you share with friends. It provides them a 'caution' when they click the link. You at work? It is a selfish use to say 'hey friend, don't click if you are not in a place that is private enough for viewing'. This private place might be physical location to avoid the over the sholuder coworkers, or over the shoulder IT departments, tracking your every move.

Example "dude...check this out..hahaha"'s not really offensive, just a test of the 'in case it was offensive broadcasting system'.

As the service is used, the company could anonomysly collect links by 'rating'. This provides future value to other customers who may want to see, top 10 offensive links, etc.

They are providing a service that is used selfishly and provides unintended value, but the developers intended it to work that way...web 2.0. Understanding the very subtle difference can be the difference between success and repeated failure.

This test still holds water.... Try asking yourself these questions, answer yes or no...scale 1-5, whatever, just be honest with yourself.

Does my idea ...

Q1: have services, not packaged software, with cost-effective scalability?
Q2: have control over unique, hard-to-recreate data sources that get richer as more people use them?
Q3: trust users as co-developers?
Q4: harness collective intelligence?
Q5: leverage the long tail through customer self-service?
Q6: deliver software above the level of a single device?
Q7: have lightweight user interfaces, development models, AND business models?

This video says it so clear in :51 seconds

These questions are derived from an old article by Tim O'Reilly.
you should read it.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

The Value of Plastic Fruit

All plastic fruit looks perfect. I can't help but think there are billions of Chinese factory workers thinking, WTF?. And then I think, a billion Chinese can't be wrong. Plastic fruit is a total fake out.

Ok that's obvious.

Think a bit more. There was a need to 'copy' fruit and make it out of plastic. Was their pain here? Was it something like, hmmmm..I want to display fruit, but I don't eat fruit, what am I todo? There must have been enough people that were thinking this for the guy who also made pet rocks (not true) to say, "I need to move on from rocks and make plastic fruit." It is a good thing he speaks Chinese.

If aliens came from space, Plastic Fruit would probably make their top 10 things of 'most confusing things about humans'. There is an entire factory, distribution channel, pricing strategy for plastic fruit. Only more wasteful would be any efforts to ISO9000 the thing or maybe earning your Blackbelt in the process of producing plastic fruit.

The Chinese proverb for this is: Make what Americans think they want, no questions asked.

Back to the Aliens. If today aliens looked at some internet services, They might see the value in plastic fruit. They might say, "I need plastic fruit all of a sudden, not sure why, but where is Madeinchina planet?"

I watch the typical listing sites and see very little actual value being created.

I'd encourage you to get the RSS feeds of these sites and watch them for two weeks. Use BounceBase of course to merge them.

It is completely overwhelming.

Every startup should answer one question and be sure it is always their focus:

What problem am I solving?

Otherwise it is just 'neat', 'cool' or some other Web 2.0 word, known as a cash incinerator in the investor world.

This is why anytime you 'pitch' your product, investors ask the same question: "Do you have any customers?" They are not asking about revenue. If you made something and people are using it to solve their personal pain, it has value. The size of the value is then in question, which should be slide 2.

Ok, so the big bananna at the plasticfruit company has a porsche and a ferrari. Who cares. Aliens don't nor do the Chinese. Nor should you. Go create value.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

I sure felt stupid reading the paper.

1st time in a year, I'm sick. I used to think people with migraines were total pansies. What would impress horticulturists everywhere, a giant pansy grew in my bedroom. hmm..that didn't come out right.

I couldn't move. In support of all the guys everywhere, yes, I did think I was dying.

With all the things in my life, including dying or becoming the mirror image of a giant flower, I learned something. I read the entire paper.

I can't remember the last time I read the paper. I am connected online with an RSS reader (Bouncebase of course) and I have a good group of friends that send me links and I watch the news (Fox news if you must know).

All of which, you think, would somewhat worsen my headache.

After going through the 'guy stuff' in the paper, Bestbuy, Dell, Dick's (odd name) sporting goods, and sadly missing the Circuit City flyer (they are in bankruptcy), I started to read every article. That's right, every article.

Since the daily content I read is filtered, by me via RSS and by the group of friends I hang with, and of course the bias of Fox news, I never really saw a clear picture, maybe the big picture, but never a clear picture.

I read every story and here is what I learned.

There is limited solutions in the newspaper. There is plenty of information.

Two people killed....

Somebody raped a 73 year old woman.....
with video it says

Man shot in head....

Burglar won't steal our Christmas....

Columbine Style Shooting foiled....

This stuff is so sad, I can't make it up.

I realized how much my news is filtered and thought, maybe this isn't good. Sure it is convienent, both in efficiecy and ignorance. I sure felt stupid reading the paper.

As of now, I added some news feeds that I normally don't read. Try it.
It'll open your eyes, prevent 'death by headache' and give your home an aroma of flowers.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Grass, Leaves or Snow - Nobody rides free.

I'm going to get into a little bit of uneducated philosophy translates to tech startup advice later in the post......hang on.

Humans have a very bad 'decision compass' on what is important.

In the spring I spend money and time (M&T) fertilizing my grass, then I spend M&T all summer cutting it, then M&T raking leaves, then M&T shoveling snow. Why? Makes no sense.

I see gas powered machines that "BLOW" leaves.
Seriously, cave men would look down on us.

Are you already rationalizing 'why' you do these things?

Green grass for the neighbors? cut grass for uh...the neighbors? maybe to avoid the redneck label. Dandelions are flowers I say.

Raking leaves for the purpose of? I find it amazing that we rake leaves or blow them to the neighbors yard, then we buy 'fall fertilizer'. You know what that is? It is FREAKING leaves! with artificial coloring to make them granules white. Granules..really? that is just marketing. When have you ever used this word, 'Granules' unless you were talking about wasting time, I mean fertilizing.

Snow is the solid form of water. It melts. I see people with multi-thousand dollar machines plowing sidewalks. Why? laws. What?...who made these laws, a special interest group for the national association of snow walkers? Who in the hell walks on the sidewalk in the winter?. You'd only do this if it warmed up and if it warmed up, the sun would melt the sidewalks.

Startup Lesson
Evaluate what you should do from the giant list of what you could do.
Then be absolutely sure what you are doing is not rationalizied by someone. Most of the time, the absolute should do is only 2 or 3 items, max.

Be perfect at what you should do..then be average at everything else.

If you get it right, a few things happen to your startup.
1. You get momentum for less money....VC guys call that ROI.
2. Great people will network for you...often known as - jumpin' on the bandwagon.
3. You have no problem raising money
4. You get good terms.

I think the team at Tapinko is a refreshing example of this.

I'm going to winterize my mowers (I have two), put away the fall fertizlier and get out the snow shovel. It all blows if you ask me.