Start with clear goals
As some of you know, I’ve been keeping notes about the last year trying to get Marco and Steps off the ground. It’s been an incredible, nerve wracking, gut wrenching, awesome making experience. I’ve learned and grown a ton. I started off writing Kerouac-stream-of-consciousness style and have been refining the original document since. I have some 28 pages of outlined notes. I’ll be sharing some of my insights and lessons here. Here’s the first installment.
Asking why is a powerful tool when trying to start something. If you keep asking why deeply enough you’ll find diamond-like truths. Keep asking “why” until you get to “I don’t know”. “I don’t know” is very honest. Steven Hawking made a career poking for energy at the boundaries of black holes, amazingly discovering more about the unknowable by looking at its edges. It takes guts to admit you don’t know, but it can lead to more learning and more truths.
When you’ve exhausted “why” and “I don’t know”, follow up with “what” and “how”. Business is hard, companies are hard, startups are harder. Clear goals are a map to come back to when you’re lost and confused. Self doubt is part and parcel of a startup. Your goals will keep you sane when you’re starting to lose it.
There’s another benefit, once you’re clear with yourself about why you’re doing something, you can be honest with your potential investors, employees and customers. That authenticity will pay dividends.
Goals can change or become more clear. Don’t be afraid to update them. And don’t be afraid to walk away when your current project isn’t fitting them. If you find that’s easy, you probably haven’t been honest with yourself about your goals.
I knew I was getting old when our 30 year old intern had never heard of Peter Falk or Columbo. We got him with the Princess Bride tho ;)
Some good 70’s cinema shit right here
TWiT Apr 6 edition
This Week in Tech is a series of posts that grew out of a lecture for design students in the entrepreneurship class at SVA’s IxD program to get them up to date on weekly developments and the implications for their careers.
Google’s golden goose is search. You know what surprised me with the JCP Penny debacle? Who knew it was that easy to rig PageRank? Many will claim that this +1 thing is an answer to Facebook’s social threat. Or maybe it’s part of Larry Page’s new vision as CEO. Or maybe their search isn’t as good as we all thought (which is what I’m implying). Point is, Goog doesn’t want to get all complacent and watch their business disappear. Fair enough, admirable even. Personally, I’m not really feeling their latest parries - the streaming results and twitter includes feel busy. I think they need some great product people with real design sense, don’t you?
Sam, creator of letterly and drop.io and now working with his bud Mark at FB, found it difficult to renew his domain name in the middle of a civil war. Perhaps the country’s NIC was on drugs or partnered with Al Qaeda.
Twitter’s Turns Five, SAI looks @ numbers
Jack Dorsey’s return is intended to help make Twitter mainstream. I like the daily charts SAI does and I thought this was a really fascinating breakdown of Twitter’s numbers. Twitter has 90MM user accounts with zero followers. Data shows that there are 56 million accounts on Twitter following 8 or more accounts. There are only 38 million following 16, and just 12 million following 64. There are only 1.5 million accounts on Twitter following 512 or more accounts.
I’m going to teach a 1.5hr entrepreneurship workshop. Did you enjoy my lecture? What was missing? Would you mind taking a 2 minute anonymous survey to help me cater the course for maximum usefulness? http://svy.mk/biz4design
TWiT: This Week in Tech
These are a series of posts that grew out of a lecture for design students in an entrepreneurship class at SVA’s IxD program to get them up to date on weekly developments and their implications for their careers.
Amazon Cloud Drive and Cloud Player
Look out Apple, Google, Dropbox, Rdio, Spotify and your music collection. Amazon is giving away 5GB of cloud storage for music and data. Music can be streamed to a web player or Android device. No iOS. 5GB for free, $1/GB-yr up to a terabyte. My problem is my music collection is in the TB territory and I can’t afford $1,000 to host it remotely. Additionally, I’d want it to be able to play on my Apple devices. That said, my current solution - having a music strewn across LaCie drives and multiple computers is completely broken. Maybe Google will pull a Gmail move and just give everyone 1TB free and blow the roof off this shit. Here’s to hoping!
The big news for anyone interested in the mobile, photo, LBS (insert buzzword) space was that a seemingly unproven player came in post SXSW and secured $41 million dollars in financing for a brand new product with nary a user. For many of us, Path was a huge, questionable investment at $11MM. Then again, Instagram’s user adoption curve has proven they’re onto something. What are they onto? Computing is moving to your pocket. Your social life’s peanut butter is getting infected by your tech life’s chocolate, and some investors think they’ll be selling a lot of peanut butter cups. I think that shift is inevitable and happening. I have no idea if Color is worth $41MM. I personally think if I had 1/100th of that I could make something cooler. But there’s good arguments for and against.
Malcom Gladwell on Crack
I think Malcom Gladwell is brilliant. I also think he’s on crack w/r/t social media and the democracy movements in N. Africa. I think what’s actually going on here is that he’s trying to counteract the irrational, self congratulatory exuberance over the transformative power of modern American tech. I think he’s right to counter it. Companies like Facebook, Twitter and Google aren’t around to create democratic revolution - they’re around to make $. These companies (particularly Google and Facebook) have proven they’re willing to bow to government pressure. The point is that we shouldn’t trust them to stand up for human rights, justice or democracy. That’s the job of an engaged citizenry. And I also think the press has underplayed the important role Al Jazeera played in disseminating information to the populations affected. But there’s no question that videophones, twitter and facebook helped create a powerful stream of information and coordination in the recent democratic uprisings. I’d imagine a lot of countries, including our own, are looking for ways to plug those holes in the future.
Paper - all my digital work starts here. I love paper. It’s cheap. It’s fast. It’s burnable. It’s hi/lo res. It’s a magnet for ideas - you can go from coffee ring to company in one stain. You can take it to the beach, pin it to a wall, throw it in a bin, pass it to a friend or scrawl on it for later. I use all forms of the stuff for my tech work. I have the before and afters to prove it. I swear if I was in prison or trapped on a desert island - give me some Uniball Micros and a box of Moleskine Journals and I’m good.
The idea behind the Slow Company movement is that instead of trying to be the first or to get the most mindshare or market share of any company in your vertical, you try to make something that people genuinely find useful and are willing to pay for it.
And instead of trying to woo celebrities and plastering your name all over SXSW, you make something that people like so much that they tell their friends, and it spreads by word of mouth based on how well made it is and how awesomely it solves problems that people have — real problems, not ones that marketers make up."
I think it goes without saying that those ascribing to this mindset are bootstrappers. This is what is next for Galvanize, actually. More on that soon.
TWiT: This Week in Tech
My latest installment of this week’s tech happenings, from my vantage point in downtown Brooklyn.
Japan’s Nuclear Crisis
First the largest recorded earthquake in history, followed by a tsunami, followed by a nuclear crisis that could be worse than Chernobyl and feels like the BP oil spill on a daily basis. A lot of technology worked - most reactors are fine, buildings not affected by the tsunami are still standing. But many of the seawalls failed and the world is now aware of how unmanageable a nuclear crisis can be (if we didn’t already know). Over 20 reactors in the US have the same 40 year-old, controversial design. Between BP and now Fukushima, we clearly need much, much more investment and commitment to green energy.
Franken gets Neutrality
As long as we’re on a political tip - big ups to Al Franken, who really understands the importance of Net Neutrality. With references to Francis Ford Copolla, SNL, big media and the role of an artist, media maker and entrepreneur, I loved this talk. He’s kind of boring, and there’s no sexy slideshow, but we can’t let the internet turn into the next TV wasteland. http://www.livestream.com/theuptake/video?clipId=pla_4cc380bc-71ef-4c6a-ab8e-360c3ba40cd2
Flickr’s Death Knell
Is there any better example of Yahoo’s lack of leadership than their inability to understand, support and grow the community that Flickr started? So much online social shit was pioneered by Flickr and Delicious and it’s like the services got stuck in amber. I’ve met a few of the Flickr folks over the years and they’ve all been brilliant. You can even read Kellan’s play by play of why flickr didn’t beat Instagram to the mobile social game here: http://www.quora.com/Why-did-Flickr-miss-the-mobile-photo-opportunity-that-Instagram-and-picplz-are-pursuing I don’t know Matthew Rothenberg, Flickr’s head of product for the last 5 years, but it can’t possibly be good that he’s leaving. I personally think Yahoo should just sell it to Instagram (which desperately needs a web presence) and be done with it.
TWiT: This Week in Tech
A few weeks ago, @zachklein invited me to talk in his Wednesday class and I gave a little presentation outlining some stuff I’ve learned about business since I left ITP 10 years ago. I also included a “This Week in Tech” section in which I highlighted 3 interesting things happening in Tech. That week was SV Angel/Yuri Milner funding all YCombinator participants, the opening of General Assembly and the democracy protests unfolding in Egypt. We’ve kept it going since. Here’s my picks for this week.
Acquisition by Googtube. NNN, an online video network, attempting to discover and master being the MTV of the youtube era. Hard to argue with their success - having made two of Youtube’s most watched videos - Bed Intruder and Ke$ha parody. Bed Intruder should be embedded in the dictionary definition for Viral Video. Ad and song sales must have made NNN a small fortune. One wonders how to read the current acquisition - is it akin to MTV’s shift years ago from playing videos to creating more original content? Was NNN running out of cash? Or is it as simple as Youtube knowing what side its bread is buttered on? No one knows, but great news for another NYC startup - cheers!
At only 2 years old, Foursquare has continued to innovate and take no prisoners. A testament to their success: it’s hard to imagine a time when Gowalla was ever seen as a serious threat. 2 years out of SXSW, Foursquare now boasts over 7 million users. This past year, despite the massive growth, saw serious questions and challenges to the basic premise, summed up by the term “check-in fatigue”. The company seems to be creating new reasons to open the app, rethinking the gameplay, but more importantly attempting to leverage their massive data set. The best chance for monetization in the space is getting to users before they’ve made a decision, providing them with valuable suggestions and sponsored deals to help guide them. If Foursquare can create suggestions from everyone’s history, your friends’ history and your history to actually make meaningful predictions they might silence their legion of critics once and for all.
3. SXSW burnout
Last year, SXSW Interactive attendance surpassed film and music for the first time. This year promises to be even more nuts. I liked it last year and found it valuable even with its size. Hard to know if it’ll continue to be or if it’ll just turn into a tech themed, industry sponsored CMJ-style disappointment. I’m not the only one bailing this year (I didn’t land a panel and can’t justify the $). Time will tell whether I’m jaded, broke or prescient.
The TC HackDays that were organized by Daniel Raffel, Chad Dickerson and myself were featured in an article in Oh Comely - a British mag. They did a spread on folks that make stuff in 24 hours - Comics, Magazines etc. Featured are Nat Gertler, Longshot, HYPtv and us. Some things to note - they get all the facts mostly right, but some ideas and details got lost in the editing. Daniel had the original idea for the event and Chad and myself helped him organize it. Most importantly they neglected to mention Josh Rooke-Ley who was my co-conspirator on the ybox at that first Yahoo event.