In a very short period of time, opinions of anything can change. It wasn’t so long ago that these statements were made about the internet as a commercial platform:
- It’s for nerds. “Fine, you nerds can do what you want but normal people are never going to use this thing.”
- It’s completely decentralized, which means you can’t trust it. No business is ever going to do anything on it because businesses won’t work on an untrusted environment. There won’t ever be any e-commerce.
- There will never be any internet payments. No one will put their credit card on the internet.
- It’s an open-source kind of thing so there will be no Internet companies.
- It’s got all these technical deficiencies. It’s slow. It’s unreliable. It doesn’t work right. When you do a search, sometimes you get an answer back and sometimes you don’t. Sometimes when you dial in you get a busy signal.
- What happen if your ISP goes out of business? Then you can’t get back online.
- Once you get on the internet, even assuming you get on the internet, there’s nothing to do. There’s no content. Time magazine isn’t online, the New York Times isn’t online. It’s just a bunch of nerd stuff.
These classic soundbites come from Marc Andreessen in a recent interview while referencing those who think bitcoin will never be more than some kind of digital space oddity. While we are on the topic of economic change, it is telling to have a look at the market valuations of the top 10 internet companies. That is, companies less than 20 years old who could not have existed pre dot com. The US top 10 public companies now have an accumulated value of $1.168 trillion dollars.
- Google – $585 billion
- Facebook – $170 billion
- Amazon – $155 billion
- Ebay – $65 billion
- Priceline – $65 billion
- Yahoo – $36 billion
- Salesforce.com – $36 billion
- Twitter – $24 billion
- Linkedin – $21 billion
- Expedia – $11 billion
We can also add the upcoming float of Alibaba.com to this at anything between a further $120 to $200 billion.
This takes my mind directly to the potential of 3D printing, web of things and the solar energy industry. All of which are in their 1993 era. The only question remaining for entrepreneurs reading is this; What are you going to do about it?
Yes, I have been writing, just in other places. So here’s 3 recent articles I’ve put out there which could have been put here:
Back posting tomorrow – I promise.
A colleague who is in a startup pitch competition for an accelerator sent me this question:
Steve, In your experience, is it better to pitch first or last in a series of afternoon presentations?
I answered him in two parts: There is a theory that says if you’re last, you’re only competing against the one they’ve already chosen to win up to that point. But, honestly – it matters much more to be awesome & not worry about the uncontrollable things.
I guess with most projects we have the same choice on where to focus, on superstition, or super performance.
I’ve been doing some blogging and work in general for the good people at Pollenizer. My recent focus has been over coming the fear of leaving your job, and things we can do to reduce the risk and make the transition. I’ve written 3 posts in particular which I really think you guys will dig. There’s some links below and a little sound bite for each proving they are worth the 3 minutes each of them take to read. Remember we must first invest in ourselves before anyone will invest in us.
- The fast track, zero risk method to becoming an entrepreneur: This post is the ultimate startup life hack – and with a simple trick gets to you on the path to entrepreneurship in an instant. Serious.
- Startup training in a low risk environment: here I’ve written about ways you can up skill and help your self transition from employee to startup founder without risking anything. A must for those planning to escape their cubicle in corporate land.
- The worst case scenario for failed entrepreneurs: And finally a nice bit of entrepreneurial FEAR debunking, and reasons that taking the leap will not result in anything bad. This one will ease your mind.
Hope you enjoy these mind jams.
Startup culture is becoming a big thing in the wider community. It’s seemingly graduated from a high tech nerdy subculture into a mainstream pop culture giant overnight. But is it really anything new? Or is it just a rebranding of small business as we knew it with some terrific superlatives and rockstar billionaire game winners to give us that Bruce Springsteen stadium rock ethic? Certainly the technology revolution we are all living through is significant. Significant enough to make it easier than it has ever been in history to start a business.
Net result is that startup culture hot. Just like grunge music was in the early 1990’s. Anyone with a pair of ripped jeans in a dive bar was in a band. And now anyone with a wifi connection and a laptop is launching a startup. The simplest way to remind ourselves that everything is a remix is to kick it old school and see how our new startup words stack up:
- Pivot – used to be called adapting to the market.
- Iteration – used to be called a product improvement.
- MVP – used to be a prototype or a test market.
- Growth Hackers – used to be what marketers and sales people were called.
- Truth North -used to be known as the single minded proposition.
- Runway – used to be known as the bank balance and how long we had left before going bust.
- Burn Rate – used to be a sign that this new business venture wasn’t going so well.
- Lean – used to be called doing things on a budget. (Oh, The pyramids were the first lean startup….. those pyramids were meant to be big square blocks but they ran out of materials, and just went with the pyramids instead – turned out to be a killer feature.)
I was recently in an office where there happened to be a couple of Rubik’s cubes laying around. Once upon a time I wasted an inordinate amount of time learning how to solve it. So I said: “Oh, I can solve that.” Adding further that I could do it in 3 minutes, but my best time is under 2 minutes. The cube was quickly handed to me to prove my lofty statement. So I start the solve, got halfway through and completely forget the algorithm – and in ‘under 3 minutes’ I look like both a fool and a fibber.
It reminded me of something important. Just because we have been able to do something in the past, it doesn’t mean we can do it now. Just because we knew something once, it doesn’t mean we know about it now. They only way to stay on top is to continue to practice and relearn what we already do and know. Just because someone ran a marathon once, doesn’t make them a marathon runner now. The things we need to practice the most should be the things we are already good at. Especially when it is a craft we use for income generation.
So after this embarrassing little moment, I went and bought a new cube and got my mojo back. I’ve also made the decision to solve it once a day – just because it’s fun and worth remembering. A bit of grey matter exercise. And for those doubters out there here it is being solved in 16 seconds… ok ok I sped the film up just a little.
For those who are wondering the current world record time for solving is 5.55 seconds.
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I’ve spent an equal amount of time in large corporates and startups. With the success that large companies have achieved comes an entirely new set of cultures which they could do without. So here is my top 10 list of behaviours large companies could do without:
- Public reading events. Organise a room full of people and stop their work to read stuff to them instead of actually providing an inspiring change instigating presentation.
- Pre-meeting meetings: Getting everyone ‘on the same page’ – I felt sick writing that… yuck. Time wasting. Have some courage people.
- Promoting the best political performers: Ensuring the political champions kick on instead of those making a difference in the market.
- Skimp on the product: Remove cost from product instead of having a product in which customers would tolerate price rises for.
- Creating information spirals: Gathering more research to reduce risk and avoid making a ‘go’ decision while the market opportunity gets taken by nimble competitors.
- Developing slogans instead of getting stuff done: A company I worked for had a new one each year. One was Fewer Bigger Better. It was a great way to justify not doing anything.
- Developing internal language: Having a culture of industry jargon, codes and acronyms to create the ‘self aggrandising’ illusion of intelligence. Talking to themselves
- Mistake avoidance culture: Creating a fear of decision making, by rewarding staff for not making mistakes.
- Penny pinching: Closing the stationary cupboard during a tough year, yet the senior people can still afford those first class trips to international trade conferences.
- Global alignment: Ensuring the packaging for Australia is the same as the packaging in Lithuania when the product comes out of different factories and is served in different cultures. Confusing when global focus is a disadvantage.
What’s your favourite piece of corporate folly?
We often forget that the thing we don’t like about something is also thing that makes it possible. The annoying part of something good, is usually what keeps it alive and provides us the gifts that surround it. One case in point is Youtube advertising. It’s so annoying isn’t it, to spare that 5 seconds before clicking out, or that entire 30 second advertisement you can’t even click out of – how dare they. What we ought do is imagine for a minute that Youtube never found its monetization model. Then what? Then it probably fails, doesn’t exist and instead of having pretty much all forms of education and entertainment on demand on any topic, any time, we’d be stuck with a few free to air TV channels, home shopping, and marginal pay TV subscriptions.
The cost of the benefits is rarely a heavy price to pay, especially with new technology and disruptive innovations which need to have lower barriers to inspire adoption. And speaking of disruptions – the advertising we have to endure is not nearly as bad as it was in the TV era. Sometimes it’s worth remembering that misdirected hate is both a waste of energy and a short sighted perspective.
Fake it till you make it – sure you’ve heard that. But have you ever seen a documentary showing it in action? Been a fly on the wall while people make dramatic transitions? There’s an old UK television show aptly called ‘Faking it’. It’s now been off the air for almost 10 years but has serious lessons for entrepreneurs and anyone looking to make a transition.
It is truly inspiring to see what is possible for most anyone with focus, hands on practice and coaching from experts. One of my favourite episodes takes country boy James Sawyer dressed in tweed who speaks with a toffy voice to become a street graffiti artist in a mere 4 weeks. The premise of the show is that his mentor has to get their student up to speed so that they can sit a test, and trick experts who have to pick the ‘faker. The test James had was to go through a live graffiti art contest (pitch if you will), against 3 other actual graffiti artists followed by an interview on the hip hop culture in the hope of to stooging the judges.
It’s worth watching and you can watch it here.
The thing is that we are all faking it, even when we are regarded as an expert in our field. None of us really know anything with absolute certainty. We guess, we estimate, we take a chance, we copy others and we just forge ahead. We should remember this more in life and forget the fear of being called out as a fraud. Most of what we do to make a living or build a startup is not life and death. Getting it wrong wont really matter that much, unless you are building airplanes and bridges. (Airplane and bridge building readers, please ignore this post.) The rest of us should start acting is if we can.