Archive for the ‘ego’ tag
Getting stuff to go viral is sexy. It’s a miracle when it works. It makes you famous.
Everyone wants to get tweeted, liked, mentioned on a blog, spread by email and watch the numbers go up and up and up.
The thing is, drive-by viral traffic doesn’t convert. 50,000 visitors might end up buying just 23 items.
Ultimately, if you want to get elected, make a sale or even change minds, you can’t survive on viral traffic, no matter how big the tsunami is.
After I started talking about permission marketing, the question readers wanted answered was, “how do I get permission in the first place?” The answer was to create an ideavirus, an idea that spreads. And then, as it spreads, don’t try to make a sale, merely work to earn the privilege of a follow up, the opportunity to reconnect over time. By email, sure, but phone or reputation are fine too.
Ten years later and the ego pendulum has clearly swung in the direction of the virus. That’s what we brag about and what is too often measured.
How many eyeballs are passing by is a useless measure. All that matters is, “how many people want to hear from you tomorrow?”
Don’t try to convert strangers into customers. It’s ineffective and wasteful. Instead, focus on turning those momentary strangers into people eager to hear from you again and again.
Yes to spreading ideas. Two yesses to using those ideas to earn permission going forward.
The last update we had to the Google Toolbar PageRank was in May 2012, about three months ago, which is typically how often Google will push out a toolbar PageRank update to the public.
I am very happy to see that I don’t see as much concern and buzz about this in the forums. Maybe it too recently happened and SEOs in the forums still have not woken up and they will explode in fear and joy about the PageRank update or maybe SEOs have wised up.
I just checked this site and we continue our decline from once a PageRank 7 and now down to a PageRank of 3. Why? More on that over here.
That being said, I do hope your PageRank climbed and did not fall. It is a good ego boost when you reach a PR7 or higher.
Goodby’s man on the inside is now on the outs.
According to The Wall Street Journal, General Motors Co.’s ousted its global marketing chief, Joel Ewanick at the end of last week. Ewanick, 52, was head of one of the largest advertising budgets in the U.S. ($4.5 billion/year) and a key player in the company’s restructuring efforts.
Mr. Ewanick, in a recent interview, acknowledged that his style can be polarizing.
“One of my jobs is to make sure people don’t relax, to keep the tension high,” he said in an interview. “I don’t mean to hurt people, but everything matters now and we have to be great.”
Advertising executives said he often ruffles ad shops with harsh critiques and demands for last-minute changes.
I have never met the man, but his line, “I don’t mean to hurt people, but…” is intolerable. Too many people in this business think that “the work” is more important than treating people well. It isn’t. And when you lose touch with what actually makes the world go around — your ability to relate well to other people — you’re truly out there all alone, just you and your outsized ego.
Mountain View is a quietly intense suburb at the nexus of the San Francisco peninsula and Silicon Valley proper, filled with trees, flowers, and the hum of the highways and office parks off in the distance. It’s like Palo Alto without the ego, and about as different from San Francisco as Silicon Valley gets.
Quora, the quietly ambitious startup that’s creating a smarter, Q&A-style Wikipedia, is going to fit right in.
It’ll be occupying floors four and five of Mozilla’s building in the town’s sleepy center, at 650 Castro Street. There’ll be room to grow from the company’s 40 or so current employees to more than 150 “over the next few years,” cofounder Adam D’Angelo told me by phone yesterday.
There was no such space in the company’s Palo Alto location. D’Angelo took to his product today to share more details on the decision:
We’re running out of space in our current office, so we’ve been looking for more space for a while now. Because the downtown Palo Alto market is so hot, there is no available office space big enough for us nearby. We can also afford a longer-term lease now that we’ve raised our series B.
Those factors prompted us to look at other downtown areas around Silicon Valley. Ideally, we were looking for a space that was walking distance from a Caltrain stop, in an area with restaurants and other downtown amenities. We were lucky to find a space that meets our needs on Castro Street in downtown Mountain View. It’s not too far from our current location and it will give us space to grow to four times our current size of 40 employees.
He also told me that the other option was, in fact, San Francisco, where other hot consumery valley startups like Pinterest are moving. But most employees live further south, and there was some concern that such a long move to a culturally distinct place could be disruptive for productivity.
Quora is high-profile, in some sense. Like other question-and-answer sites, users create accounts, then follow, vote on and sometimes answer questions. But the way it combines these features, and the way it’s trying to grow, has already resulted in big quality gains over older rivals like Yahoo Answers or startups like Formspring.
Their personal reputations have most certainly helped attract a strong early user base — other engineers and tech leaders, to begin with. An increasing number of thought leaders in other industries have also been joining over the last year or two. And you’ll occasionally see expert answers make big news, like this medical researcher’s insightful explanation of Steve Jobs’ cancer issues last year: ”Why did Steve Jobs choose not to effectively treat his cancer?”
Answer by answer, user by user, the company aims to fill search results and social networks with better information. The fine-tuning of the product, the slow accumulation of smart users, and the gradual proliferation of great answers across the internet will require years of concentration. As a former Mountain View resident, I can say the company has found the right place.
For the past 9 months or so, I’ve been living a lie. Well, I’ve been using a Ghost account on Google+ to share content.
Two days ago, I am off that Ghost account and now living the good life, able to share content as myself instead as my alter ego.
I signed up for Google+ when it launched under my Google Apps account which was a personal Gmail account for some reason. When I migrated my gmail account to a full fledge Google Apps account, my Google+ account went into limbo. I describe it all over here.
Long story short, the only way for me to share stuff on Google+ was to either kill my already popular Google+ account, which was now a ghost account. Or have Google migrate it. Google told me in December they would migrate me, but 7 months later, I am not migrated and so can everyone else be migrated.
Ronald Ho from Google announced it on his Google+ page. He said:
A while back we announced plans for a tool that would help you transfer your circles from one Google+ account to another and ensure that your followers are automatically directed to your new, preferred profile. Today, anyone can visit Google Takeout and click âTransfer your Google+ connections to another accountâ: https://www.google.com/takeout. For more information, check out this help center article. Thanks again for being so patient!
Here are details on how to migrate or transfer your connections.
Technically, the only thing Google is moving over is circle names, circle members, “your circles” settings, and people and pages you’ve blocked or ignored. They are not migrating content, pages, and authorship information or verified status of your account.
That being said, I still have issues:
(1) The new account is not verified, but the old one is.
(2) My authorship in Google search results still links to my old account, even though I changed all my public URLs to the new URL over a week ago.
(3) I cannot login to Google+ iPhone app, it says I need to migrate for some reason:
Those are my current issues after migrating.
Note, I was unable to Share content on Google+, Add or remove people to and from circles or Block or ignore people until the migrating and transfer was complete, which took about 48 hours.
So that is my experience transferring my Google+ account details to my Google Apps account.
Forum discussion at Google+.
I’m not sure it’s better than either of those services, but it’s Justin Timberlake’s alter ego so we have to talk about it, right?!
The Airtime Story
The current video platforms are designed to talk to only people you know. But Parker and Fanning met in a chat room 15 years ago, not knowing one another at all, and that turned into creating more than one business together. They missed the serendipitous nature of these kinds of meetings so decided to recreate them using today’s technology.
And, as luck would have it, it’s open only to those who have a Facebook account (coincidence? I think not).
Just for Facebook Friends?
Which begs the question, if Facebook is a social network for the people you already know, how can they recreate the chance meeting?
It’s not yet open to everyone and you have to have a minimum number of friends to participate (they don’t say what that number is), but it’s pretty easy to get it installed and started…if you meet their criteria.
Go to the Airtime site, click “launch application,” allow it to connect to Facebook, and then it brings up a list of friends who also are online and have the app installed.
On the right-hand side of your screen, you’ll see a list of friends and, if there is a video icon next to their name (when you scroll over it), you can video chat with them right then and there.
But let’s say you want that chance meeting Parker and Manning describe.
After you sign in, you can meet new people by clicking “Talk to Someone.” The software pairs you with other users based on the information in your profile and the criteria you select, such as your hometown, friends of friends, or the interests you’ve added to your profile.
Once you’re paired with someone, you can see the interests and friends you have in common by clicking the Airtime logo in the center of the screen. You remain anonymous to the other user until either of you sends an “Add” request and the other person accepts it.
It’s kind of a slick little app. All I know is now I’m going to have to stop working in my cycling clothes, if I want to use this tool to connect with friends (and non-friends) far and wide.
A version of this first appeared at Shift Digital Media.
De creativiteitsindex voor Nederland gaat stijgen kan ik je vertellen, en wel specifiek die voor Schiebroek of all places, deelgemeente van Rotterdam. Op dit moment cre?ert brandingguru Rob van Gijzelen 0.0 in leegstaande winkelpanden op de Asserweg een vrijplaats; ook wel bekend als witte of vrije ruimte. Het is geen gelikte plek tussen de skyline van worldport Rotterdam, maar hij zit in de wijk lekker tussen de ‘gewone’ mensen. Rob wenst iedere wijk zijn eigen creative director toe om de burger weer meester te maken. Hier is geen plaats voor ego's, verborgen agenda’s en bestemmingsplannen maar voor burgerinitiatieven als zang, knutselen, bingo, sport, meditatie en een ruilwinkel. Of hoe kom je van leegstand naar vrijstand.
Lees Meer over: De nieuwe marketeer: handen uit de mouwen, poten in de modder.
There’s a lot of money floating around Silicon Valley right now, and it’s becoming easier and easier for entrepreneurs to get access to the capital they need to get their companies off the ground. Resources like AngelList are trying to level the playing field, and facilitate conversations between founder and investor, and the passage of the JOBS Act will alter the landscape for early-stage companies by giving them access to crowdfunding from the masses. There are even charity initiatives like the ones launched by Exec and Motion To Dismiss Cancer that give a select few access to top entrepreneurs and VCs.
At a very fundamental level, the venture capital business is being reshaped. As the Kauffman report points out, most VC funds aren’t generating more than the three to five percent return one finds in the public markets — the yield investors expect, the report finds. In fact, the report states “VC returns haven’t significantly outperformed the public market since the late ’90s”.
Speaking to a crowd at the Grind work space in New York last week, Fred Wilson addressed this ongoing shift, saying, “there’s two times as much capital in the venture capital business today than we, the professional investors who make up the venture business, can actually put to work intelligently.”
This isn’t so good for VCs, Wilson says, but it is for entrepreneurs. Of course, the fact of the matter is that the top VC firms, super angels, and angel investors have unparalleled deal flow, they see hundreds, sometimes thousands of pitches, are privy to information few outside very small circles ever get to see. They are custodians of that equally valuable currency — information. As hard as the media and others work to reveal the goings-on behind the scenes, as Chris Dixon points out, most coverage doesn’t reveal 90 percent of the relevant information. This is true not just of funding announcements in tech publications, it’s true of panels at conferences, interviews, video, and more.
Sure, there are plenty of resources where entrepreneurs can go to learn more about VCs and top entrepreneurs, where they share their inside knowledge in order to enlighten and educate. And, in terms of funding, there are incubators, company builders, accelerators, VCs, crowdfunding, and more. But, in terms of how one should build a founding team, or how one should pursue business ideas to best serve innovation — change, inspiration, product-focus — all these just become buzzwords without context. Illuminating this stuff was part of the motivation that led Mike Arrington to start TechCrunch.
In this landscape, capital is readily available, and the noise is growing — and will continue to grow. Thus, it’s becoming even more essential to understand what it is about the anatomy of startups that makes them appealing to top investors, or, what is almost more valuable, why they fail.
If Dixon is right that incumbents fail because of ineptitude or irrelevance, is the same true for startups? Questions like this have led to the overwhelming interest in the Startup Genome Project, because a group of entrepreneurs eager set out to leverage the ever-growing piles of available data produced on/by early-stage companies in an effort to answer the most relevant questions to founders: What works, and why?
They are question that every entrepreneur, investor, and member of the media are (or should be) asking. “Why?” remains the most important question, or mantra, for founders, but it’s not always asked in the proper context.
This is the reason I became fascinated with a new book, called Venture Capitalists at Work, co-written by Tarang and Sheetal Shah. Rather than present anecdotal stories, gossip, or allowing vapid buzzwords win the day, the two set out to provide entrepreneurs with real insight into how some of the top investors in the game evaluate, invest in, and mentor their startups — information that can be extremely powerful if put to use correctly.
Tarang Shah is a former VC himself, having spent 4.5 years at SoftBank Capital, and he tells us that he wanted to leverage his connections in the VC world to offer a peek into knowledge that he says has thus far really remained in a “black box.”
The book is presented in an interview format, which makes it easy to digest, and starts with a foreword from Charles River Venture Partner George Zachary before going onto pick the brains of Sequoia Capital Partner Roelof Botha, FLOODGATE Managing Partner Mike Maples, Highland Capital Partners’ Sean Dalton, Rich Wong of Accel, Tim Draper, Howard Morgan, Gus Tai, David Lee, Steve Dietz, Ann Winblad, Eric Hippeau, and many others.
These interviews set out to answer three basic questions: Why do most start-ups fail, and what you can learn from these failures? Of those that do succeed, what is their secret sauce? And what are the main ingredients that VCs identify when funding startups?
Before jumping into the characteristics that were identified most consistently among the VCs he spoke to, Shah says that it’s important to address a few common misconceptions or “myths” that one hears a lot these days. First and foremost, there’s a perception that the top reason startups fail is because they fail to raise funding, or don’t raise enough. Startup Genome holds that, in fact, the main culprit is premature (or dysfunctional) scaling — in other words, a startup’s core operational categories (product, consumer team, finances, business model) are out of sync.
Shah agrees with this, but puts it a different way: Lack of (or insufficient) funding is not the cause of failure, but a byproduct. The real root of the problem is when startups fail to hit their key performance metrics, largely because one or multiple of the categories the Startup Genome team identifies are out of sync, are mismanaged, or are not developed properly.
Secondly, Shah points out that many believe that the best entrepreneurs look for funding when they need it, and only raise the amount they need. This, he says, is a myth. In truth, the best entrepreneurs are always fundraising, and always look to raise more than they need so that they aren’t forced to raise money at inopportune times.
The third venture funding myth Tarang sets forth in the book, which is especially relevant given the popularity of the lean startup psychology, is that it’s always better to, whenever possible, build a business without raising venture capital — or to raise as little as possible. Shah says that, on a whole, there are very few high tech models that lend themselves to successful (long-term) bootstrapping in today’s highly competitive market. “The best companies use funding to scale rapidly and own the market,” he says, “it’s not a tradeoff.”
Big, Bold Ideas
So these are important to keep in mind, but, in the end, what is it that VCs are looking for? Well, perhaps unsurprisingly for how much the word “disruptive” is thrown around and overused, Shah says that VCs love big, bold, and beautiful ideas. Consensus is your enemy, and entrepreneurs shouldn’t be afraid of being contrarian. Often, it ends up being those risky ideas that people end up believing in the most, becoming passionate about, and with big ideas, there can be room to maneuver to overcome short-term failures.
While some VCs are market-focused and others are entrepreneur-first, obviously if you want to build a billion-dollar company, you’re going to need both. But, when it comes to the entrepreneur, the common perception is that you need to be hyper intelligent, have a big ego, be a visionary, experimental, focused, and passionate. While these are all essential to the equation, Shah says the the traits that really matter most are authenticity, integrity, and motivation.
So, take “ego,” for example. While an entrepreneur has to have enough confidence and ego to be stalwart in the belief that the current products on the market aren’t good enough, and to be confident enough to pursue unconventional ideas and solutions, it’s all about balance. One’s ego has to be in-check enough to admit weaknesses, and be able to surround one’s self with a team of people that are smarter than they are, and can leverage their strengths where you can’t.
It’s not about whether or not you’ve started eight companies: “We do not look at serial entrepreneurship as a positive trait,” says Mike Maples. “We look at authenticity and unconventional, proprietary insight as the key difference.”
What’s more, there are way too many entrepreneurs today who get caught up in the drive to make money, to become the next Instagram, lusting after that billion-dollar valuation. But that’s not what turns on venture capitalists. “The key characteristic is the desire to solve a problem for the customer. That is the driving passion, not ‘I think this is going to be a billion-dollar company and I want to hop in because I can get rich,’” says Roelof Botha. “We’re looking for people whose ideas get floated around. People who fight over the chance to work on solving a problem rather than passing the buck.”
Authenticity, Integrity, and Motivation
Money is not a sufficient motivator to overcome the ups-and-downs of the startup journey, Shah continues, instead entrepreneurs have to search for their true motivation and pursue problems that they feel genuinely passionate about. But, again, passion alone is not enough. Something that many entrepreneurs suffer from today is letting their ego take control — because they believe in their vision and their idea, they assume that the market is theirs and theirs alone.
In the media, although often guilty of revving the hype machine ourselves, we see this a lot, and it’s always a mark against. You’re never alone, unless, as Peter Thiel would say, you can adequately (and subtly) describe how you’ve created your own market. And there are few that have the brains, cojones, and creativity to do it — Stanford/Harvard MBA or not.
Part of the “authenticity,” which admittedly sounds like a buzzword, comes from experience and market analysis. But this is hard-won. Successful entrepreneurs aren’t just passionate about their idea, they have a product view that’s informed by Malcolm Gladwell’s 10K Hour Rule — they have deep experience that provides insights into the finer nuances of both the market and their target customer.
When we asked the co-founders of Lynda.com (which has made it to $70M in annual revenue without taking a dime from outside investors) what was the secret to their success, they kept coming back to the fact that it’s not about finding an exploitable, untapped niche (market opportunity), but being experts — and passionate ones at that. Putting in the time and effort required to really understand the market is what can separate the big successes from those that find themselves floundering into the deadpool.
In the rush to get funded, to scale, and ship, a lot of entrepreneurs lose sight of this, Shah says. And I am in full agreement. When Shah asked Mike Maples what made Twitter appealing for him early on — while many in the media were busy writing Twitter off — was the fact that Evan Williams had gained his “authenticity,” his experience and understanding of the market, from Blogger, informed his vision what micro-blogging could become.
Of course, the “authenticity” of one entrepreneur can’t do the job alone. The other key, as mentioned before, is a passionate disinterest (or an objectivity) that leads one to be able to surround them with the best people — to admit weaknesses and build the right team accordingly.
Shah found time and time again that one of the most overlooked parts of the process in building a company is those first 10 to 12 hires. The first handful of employees determine the “cultural DNA” of a company. While young companies without much capital may look to hire people that they can train on the job and can be molded into the right fit, Shah says that early employees need to hit the ground running, and make a difference right away.
That doesn’t mean that their functional skills have to be out-of-this world, as the key is to hire people that are right for your culture — people that have the same passion. And this is where that “integrity” is so important. Because, let’s be honest, the early stages of building a business are really tough. When no one knows your name, or your startup’s name, what convinces the best people to join and stay with you while things are tough is your character, your belief, and those you surround yourself with.
Solo co-founders just aren’t as successful as founding teams, Shah says, and those who hire co-founders that can hit the ground running tend to be the most successful. If you can reduce the dissonance inherent to a founding team by finding others that believe in the vision, personal chemistry can be worked on thereafter, if their personality and mindset is a good fit.
“I think what matters most is team culture and unit cohesion. I almost always in some ways recruit the personality type as much as functional skill,” says Rich Wong of Accel Partners in Venture Capitalists At Work. “I have a triangle in my head — functional skill, raw intelligence, personal turning radius. Smart, hard-working, and paranoid together kind of radiates raw horse power.”
Just last week, we talked about the war for top talent that’s currently being waged in the industry. It’s tough for young startups that haven’t yet closed those mega-million funding rounds to compete with the Facebooks of the world, which will always be able to offer more money, and more perks. But, if founders are willing to employ unconventional means to pursue top talent, sell the big idea for their business in an appealing and convincing way, they can win the battle for talent with creativity and by effectively wielding their integrity.
“One of the things about ‘A’ people is that they hire people smarter than themselves, and they are actively searching for people with other knowledge that they do not have,” says Howard Morgan of First Round Capital. “They are also passionate and persistent. They are willing to suffer through the setbacks which will come, and not see them as the end of the world.”
Objectivity & Adaptability
That’s why “Objectivity and adaptability” are part of those fundamental traits commonly identified in Venture Capitalists at Work as leading to success. It’s tough, but being passionately disinterested and brutally honest about everything that matters is key. In the book, Gus Tai talks about how it is essential for entrepreneurs to seek the truth, but not to be predisposed towards what they might find out. If it requires having to change direction quickly, throwing untold hours that have been spent on that one route, so be it.
This is where the final traits of the successful entrepreneur come in: Rapid iteration and pivoting. It’s essential for founding teams to operate at high RPMs, iterating on product ideas and pivoting until they find the right product-market fit. The key is always to have the big goal, the big problem in mind, and be laser focused on it, but to be flexible and willing to pivot from idea to idea until one finds the right solution. Those that fail are more often than not unwilling to let go of the original solution. The companies that have iterated and pivoted from earlier, less successful versions are too many to name, but Facebook, Chegg, Groupon, and Instagram have all done pretty well.
In talking to Shah about his experience speaking to countless founders and top investors across the U.S., that’s what struck me most. It’s that so many entrepreneurs think that when pitching VCs it’s all about the business model. That’s not to say that VCs don’t care about your business model or how you’re going to make money — far from it — it’s that they’re just as interested in how they tell the story.
For VCs, whomever is behind the business plan tells the real story. During partner meetings, when investors sit around that boardroom table, hearing entrepreneurs pitch their business, they’re just as interested in how the founder who’s responsible about the business plan demonstrates the knowledge of their customer. Investors, Shah says, want to hear about the whole bullpen — or pipeline of ideas — that founders can turn to should that original business plan fail to make the grade. They want to know that entrepreneurs have put the time and thought necessary into understanding the core problem from 5 miles up and magnified 5 times under a microscope — well enough so that they have viable alternatives.
If you sit in that pitch meeting and don’t demonstrate both a subtle and deep understanding of what your customers really need, if you can’t present a workable structure under which the business can iterate and pivot until the right solution materializes — you’re doomed. So, it’s not just about a willingness to be flexible six months from now, it’s being able to demonstrate a level of preparedness and a fullness of understanding that makes maneuverability a given from to get-go that will make you and your team appealing to investors.
Venture Capitalists at work is full of tremendous insight like this, and with analysis of more than 70 success stories of billion-dollar companies like AdMob, Bebo, Chegg, Facebook, LinkedIn, PayPal, Twitter, YouTube, etc., there are plenty of opportunities to find material that’s applicable to your business. And if that doesn’t convince you, the gushing review that sits prominently on the back cover of the book comes from Ron Conway — the Chuck Norris of venture capital.
For readers looking for more on this subject, you may also want to check out this recent guest post by Onswipe CEO Jason L. Baptiste, in which he shares an excerpt from his latest book The Ultralight Startup: Launching a Business Without Clout or Capital.
You can find Venture Capitalists at Work both in print and in eBook form here. More in the slideshow below:
It’s a dog-eat-dog world out there, and sometimes you’ll bust your tail without so much as a “well done!” to show for it. Deep down though, who doesn’t want a little bit of ego-stroking every once in a while?
That’s exactly what prompted the folks at iDoneThis to team up with AwesomenessReminders — with the new partnership in place, they’re spicing up their task-tracking service by giving their users a heaping dose of self-esteem.
For the uninitiated, iDoneThis (whom TechCrunch spotted at AngelPad’s third demo day last year) runs with a simple concept — at the end of every workday, users are sent a reminder email asking them to list what they’ve actually done that day. Once that response has been sent, the results are collected and displayed in digest form to all members of the team for their perusal the following day.
That by itself seems pretty useful — it provides a level of transparency to a situation where the results of a user’s hard work may not always be immediately visible, and with a minimum of micromanagement. Other users also have the ability to like and leave comments on each others’ lists of accomplishments, which normally just means a good day’s work will net you a “Nice job!” or two.
With that partnership with AwesomenessReminders in place, those iDoneThis users whose accomplishments have been liked are in for a treat — someone from AwesomenessReminders will actually call that person at some point to vocally proclaim how awesome they are.
If that sounds familiar, you may recall the AwesomenessReminders name from when founder Zachary Burt launched the service in 2010. In a nutshell, it allowed people to pay a monthly fee in exchange for commanding a legion of chipper callers to tell others how awesome they are. At some point the service stopped taking on new customers (though existing users could still access their accounts), and it seems that their new deal with iDoneThis is the first in a line of new initiatives with “high level strategic partners.”
Alright, so the whole thing sounds more than a little wacky (not to mention a potential headache for overachievers) but iDoneThis CEO Walter Chen feels like the partnership could make for some brighter days at the office.
“iDoneThis exists to motivate and clear up the mess that is reporting, and AwesomenessReminders exists to remind people they’re awesome,” he told me. “We all need that in the workplace.”