Start Up Blog

False Positives

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on June 5, 2014

The promise of online advertising was the ability to find an audience based on interests more that just demographic profile. An audience based on interests. This advertisement below appeared in my twitter stream which not only gave me a little chuckle, but reminded me that the web is full of false positives.

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As a reminder a false positive is a a test result which wrongly indicates that a particular condition or attribute is present.  No I am not a One Direction fan. I have never mentioned them in a tweet. But I do very often tweet about music and music videos and use such hashtags. Clearly I’ve been incorrectly identified in one of the parameters for the advertising as being a potential teenie bopper.

It reminds us to think through what the web tells as and to use our own internal analytics to tester, our brain, to see if what it is telling us is valid.

A key word is used in social media might actually mean the person doesn’t like it and the keywords were among other derogatory sentiments. The number of followers and readers we have in a social forum doesn’t necessarily mean we have that many followers of readers. It just means people clicked a button once upon a time. I have over 5000 twitter followers, but I’m certain only a small percentage of that ever see my tweets. My weekly twitter report tells me this as do the number of clicks the links I post in my tweets get (which I track). Not to mention that anyones tweets can now be muted with no one knowing.

Numbers do not necessarily equal caring. It’s also true that media organisations through the ages have used these grey areas to create massive profitability. And even though the technology is getting better at giving us a more accurate measure, there is a still a long way to go. It’s worth remembering that the actions and interactions are what matters, not the numbers.

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The competition is invisible

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on May 29, 2014

I recently saw a prototype for the Google self drive car – It’s picture is below and looks kinda cute / cool / weird.

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Anyone who follows the technology world will know that Google have successfully driven their self drive cars without incident for more than million miles. But up until now, the cars have been retro fitted Toyota and Lexus’s – other companies cars they fitted their self drive technology to. This is a bit of a shift in the projects trajectory. The Google car, is quite It’s further proof that information, when distributed freely and easily changes the physical world too. That dramatic changes in information, have dramatic impacts on all things physical. But what it should remind business people is that we simply can’t know who our competitors are any more. In a world where everyone has access to all the major factors of production we end up with a global demarcation dispute. Non linear competition where brands and big businesses get blindsided by category newbies. We’ve already seen it in retail, music and media, and we are about to see it in every form of hardware and manufacturing. The established industries who should, could and would provide the next level of innovation probably wont.

Tesla is already around half the size in market capitalisation of GM and Ford after a few short years in the market. And as we can see by this post the auto industry better get ready for new players from the technology world – Google, and possibly even Apple. The auto industry would do well to remember that cars are about to become mobile lounge rooms, and all the high tech companies are already competing for the ‘lounge room’ in the house. Next they’ll be competing for the lounge room in transit. A preemptive sense of future irony right there. Even small players like Tomcar Australia (which I have an interest in) have proven you don’t need to own a factory to make best in category vehicles and disrupt an established industry base.

I also read yesterday about two absolute powerhouse Australian companies (both in the top 10) Coles and Woolworths better get ready for a new set of competitors. And while they mentioned a siphoning of revenue category by category, I believe they have a much bigger problem coming their way:

What to do with 1000+ stores when no one goes to a grocery store to get their shopping.

And no, this is not like discretionary retail which can be made a social, fun and entertaining experience. Grocery shopping is a chore and technology has a habit of removing chores from the human experience. Not many people run fast or lift heavy things for a living. And mind you, the word computer, was originally a job title, not a machine.

In the food industry there is a term called ‘share of stomach’. What share did the food company get of the stomach. Which is the type of measure which is used to assess the truth about who the competition is, and where the revenue threats lie. I feel as though every industry needs to develop their own ‘Share of Stomach’ metric so they can see the real change in their industry. Maybe all industries related to transport need to measure share of human movement? Self driving cars, aren’t just a competitive play against legacy auto industries, but it’s hard to see city car parks being a valid business when we can ‘send our car home to our driveway’ and get it to pick us up later. It also raises questions about what relatively new businesses like Uber will do when cars don’t need drivers? Chances are they’ll need to become a system which organises and delivers our cars?

Just like life, the real life threatening diseases are from entities our body hasn’t encountered before and built a natural defence against. At times like these, a tectonic shift, business would do well remember lessons from the natural world.

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Celebrity in a post mass media world

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on May 26, 2014

If you had to name a famous person, in a particular category of fame, just 20 years ago, there was a very good chance that all of us would have known the person named. The famous Television Host, Actor, Rock star, Author, Politician, Activist… we all had an understanding of who the ‘famous people were’ in the mainstream categories. It’s still true that we know who the super famous people are in most categories. But as every day passes, fame is starting to become less defined by media owners and more defined by media users. Those with the fame got handed the stage, the microphone, the printing press, the camera and held one of the few positions available. They got picked by the owners of the factors of influence. But now we can pick who we want to care about, and that means one thing:

Fame is fragmenting.

The word famous itself derives from the latin word fāma which means to talk. And now that we can all talk to the public, fame is decided by who we think is worth listening to. I recently had two such situations where I interacted with famous people – famous to me anyway. People whose opinions and work I value. A simple twitter interaction, albeit micro with Tom Peters and Marc Andreessen.

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Guys like these are my Justin Bieber, and I hate myself for writing his name in my blog – but unfortunately he was the best example to make the point. And while I couldn’t name even one recording artist in the current top 10, or who is on Free To Air TV at 7.30pm weeknights, I still have my own set of famous people, or celebrities I look up to in my niche world. I also know that as time goes by this will be the norm, rather than the exception. Fame will become a community by community proposition. It’s not without some irony that high technology is reversing many of the social and economic structures back to our pre industrial reality.

For me this is another reason to be excited by the technology revolution. We are starting to get back to a more valid definition of celebrity – People who have a positive influence in our lives, not just those who occupy a limited number media channels.

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Amazing list of psychology life hacks you can implement immediately

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on May 25, 2014

1. Primacy and recency:

People most remember the first and last things to occur, and barely the middle. When scheduling an interview, ask what times the employer is interviewing and try to be first or last.

2. If you work in a bar or in customer service of any kind:

Put a mirror behind you at the counter. This way angry customers who approach you will have to see themselves in the mirror behind you and the chances of them behaving irrationally lowers significantly.

3. Once you make the sales pitch, don’t say anything else:

This works in sales, but it can also be applied in other ways. My boss at an old job was training me and just giving me pointers. I was working at a gym trying to sell memberships. He told me that once I got all the small talk out of the way and presented the prices, that the first person to talk will lose. It didn’t seem like a big deal but it actually worked. Often there were long periods of awkward silence as the person tried to come up with some excuse, but usually they bought.

4. If you ask someone a question and they only partially answer, just wait:

If you stay silent and keep eye contact they will usually continue talking.

5. Chew gum when you’re approaching a situation that would make you nervous like public speaking or bungee jumping:

If we are eating , something in our brain reasons ‘I would not be eating if I were danger. So I’m not in danger’. It has helped me to stay calm a few times.

6. People will always remember not what you said but how you made them feel:

Also most people like talking about themselves so ask lots of questions about them.

7. When you’re learning something new, teach it to a friend . Let them ask questions to you related to it:

If you’re able to teach something well, you can be sure that you’ve understood it very well.

8. If you get yourself to be really happy and excited to see other people, they will react the same to you:

It doesn’t always happen the first time, but it will definitely happen next time.

9. The physical effects of stress – breathing rate and heart rate – are almost identical to the physical effects of courage:

When your feeling stressed from any situation immediately reframe it : Your body is getting ready to be courageous, it will NOT feeling stressed.

10. Pay attention to people’s feet:

If you approach two people in the middle of a conversation, and they only turn their torsos and not their feet, they don’t want you to join in the conversation. Similarly if you are in a conversation with a coworker who you think is paying attention to you and their torso is turned towards you but their feet are facing in another direction, they want the conversation to end.

11. Fake it till you make it ; confidence is more important than knowledge:

Don’t be intimidated by anyone, everyone is playing a role and wearing a mask.

12. If you pretend to be something for long enough, you will eventually become it:

13. Not to be creepy, but if you want to stare at someone unashamedly, look directly past them and wait for them to try and meet your eyes:

When they fail to do that, they’ll look around (usually nervously for a second) they won’t look at you again for some time. This is your chance to straight up stare at this person for at least 45 seconds. If you’re staring at someone and get caught, DON’T turn your head or your body to look away, because that just confirms that you were staring. Just move your EYEBALLS off the person. Unlike turning your head, it’s instantaneous. And the person will think you were just looking at something behind them and that they were mistaken for thinking you were staring. Do it confidently, and ignore any reaction from the person, and you can sell it every single time. After a second you can even look back at them with a “Why are you staring at me?” look on your face to really cement the deal!

14. Build a network:

Become their information source, and let them be yours. Even grabbing a beer with a former colleague once a year will keep you in the loop at the old office. Former coworkers might have gotten a new position in that office you always wanted to work in, great! Go to them for a beer, and ask about the office. It’s all about connections and information.

15. If you are angry at the person in front of you driving like a grandmother:

Pretend it is your grandmother, it will significantly reduce your road rage

16. Stand up straight:

No slouching, hands out of pockets, and head held up high. It’s not just a cliche — you literally feel better and people around you feel more confident in you.

17. Avoid saying “I think,” and “I believe” unless absolutely necessary:

These are phrases that do not evoke confidence, and will literally do you no good.

18. When feeling anxious, clean up your home or work space:

You will feel happier and more accomplished than before.

 19. Always buy the first pitcher or round of drinks:

You’d be surprised how long you can drink on the phrase “I bought the first one.”

20. Going into an interview…be interested in your interviewers:

If you focus on learning about them you seem more interesting and dynamic. (Again, people love to talk about themselves.)

21. Pay Attention Parents:

Always give your kid a choice that makes them think they are in control. For instance when I want him to put his shoes on I will say ,”do you want to put your star wars shoes on or your shark shoes on?” Pro-tip: In some cases, this works on adults.

 22. Your action affect your attitudes more than your attitudes affect your actions:

As my former teacher said “You can jump and dance FOR joy, but you can also jump and dance yourself joyful.”

23. When a group of people laugh, people will instinctively look at the person they feel closest to in that group:

24. If you want to build rapport or gain someone’s trust quickly, match their body posture and position:

If someone is sitting with her legs crossed cross your legs. If they’re leaning away from you lean away from them. If they’re leaning towards you, lean towards them. Mirroring and matching body position is a subconscious way to tell if someone trusts you or is comfortable with you. If you’re sitting with your arms crossed and you notice someone else is sitting with her arms crossed, that is a good indicator that you have/are successfully built/building rapport with that person.

25. The Benjamin Franklin Effect:

The pencil one may seem far-fetched but I find the basis of it (the Benjamin Franklin effect) is very useful and extends far beyond pencil borrowing.  This knowledge is useful in the world of flirting too. Asking a girl in your class if you can borrow a pencil or her notes or to explain the homework will make her more likely to like you than if you let her borrow your stuff or are the one to help her. Even just asking a girl to buy you drinks (facetiously) leaves a much bigger impression than offering to or actually buying a girl a drink.  The best part is it kills 3 birds with one stone: you get the advantages of the favor itself, the person subconsciously likes you more, and it makes them more open to future favors and conversation.

26. Handling Panic and Anxiety Behavior: 

When you’re feeling stressed, worried or angry, tap each finger tip while thinking (or speaking quietly) a few specific words about what is bothering you. Repeat the same words while tapping each of your 10 fingers, including thumbs. For example, tap while saying, “I’m so angry with her…” Doing so will likely take the charge out of the feeling and return you to a more resourceful (better feeling) state of being. It’s called EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) or “tapping,” and it is useful in many, many life situations – emotional upset, physical pain, food cravings, traumatic memories…

This list came via Quora and is total gold that had to be shared.

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The early money & the long money

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on May 21, 2014

When we hear about startups that have gone on to be huge successes the mind often gravitates to all those early investors. Those who had a seat at the table in the angel rounds, those who knew the founders and got in early enough to make some serious money. It’s a natural reaction when companies go on to reach the unicorn level. It is true that people who get in early always make more money. Late money often pays a premium as future expectations (when positive) are priced into the investment.

But there is actually a way to become an early investor even when you are late to the party. The way to do it, is to be a long investor.

If we invest long, then by default we arrive early.

When we invest in something for the long haul, we eventually become an early investor. Even if the investment vehicle was well established when we arrived and got involved. If we stay long enough the price becomes cheap through the dual benefits of inflation & compounding. Just ask your parents what price they bought their first house for and you’ll see the relationship between long and early investing. It also works for quality stocks too. While very few people indeed got to invest in Google before their IPO, those who bought the stock on the open market once the stock was publicly traded would have made more than 6 times their original investment in 10 years.

When we start to invest in 10 year plus timelines all manner of investments from property to index funds provide outsized returns. And while we may not be clever enough to invest in something that grows quickly, we can be smart enough to invest in something long enough for it to become early.

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The ultimate time management lesson

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on May 19, 2014

There’s a lot to know about time management, and even when we know it all, it’s pretty hard to implement. But if I had to impart a single thought on the subject of time management it would be this:

If the years seem to be passing quicker and quicker, it is because they are.

Yep, you read that correctly, each year we live is shorter than the previous year. That’s because everything we experience in humanity is experienced in relative terms. What we compare things to is what really matters. Our financial position, our height, our intelligence, our health… everything is compared to something. And so too are the years we live. The relativity of each year we live is a smaller percentage of the life we’ve already lived. This is why years seems shorter and shorter, and in relative terms, they are. For example, 1 year in a 10 year olds life amounts to 10% of the life already lived. While 1 year of a 40 year old is .25% of the life already lived.

For me this is a nice reminder that time is constantly running out. And we should make a concerted effort to get as much out of it as we can, even if that means we want more down time. The point is that we should make conscious choices on how we use our time, not just let it evaporate. I recently did a podcast on the topic of time management on the Beers Blokes and Business show. You can listen to it here.

And here’s one more doozy to close off with – you’ll never be as young as you are today. So get out there and make a ruckus.

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4 mind blowing presentations on the future

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on May 17, 2014

I’ve recently watched a few presentations which really below my mind. Re-shaped my thinking on the next iterations of the technology revolution. Most interestingly, they all focus on independent systems, peer to peer and the end of the middle.

  1. Jeremy Rivkin – The zero marginal cost society.
  2. Mike Hearn – The trade net.
  3. Albert Wenger – World in Transition. (Why GDP decline is inevitable)
  4. Philip Evans – How data will transform business.

These talks aren’t short, but there aren’t any shortcuts in understanding what our future world might look like. I say, watch these instead of TV – you’ve got the time, it’s really all about how you allocate it.

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The Employee to Entrepreneur conversion

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on May 15, 2014

If you’re reading this and you currently work for a company you don’t have an equity stake in – I reckon there’s a pretty good chance you’re planning your cubicle escape route. Today I wrote a post for Pollenizer on my Top 10 things employees need to know before they jump ship. The thing about entrepreneurship is that it is a change in environment. And like all new environments we enter the biggest challenges we face are never intellectual, but cultural.

You can read it here.

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Evolution & strategy

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on May 12, 2014

Evolution itself does not have a strategy. It just lets what wins, win. If anything, it is the accumulation of a lot of in market testing. Traits, (or tactics) are tested for advantage, and those that work, keep on happening through natural selection. Nature tries everything. Nature lets things that don’t work die.

We too can help our business evolve. We just need to do what nature does. That is to not pretend to know what will work. Instead we should try everything and find out what does. The good news of course, is that it’s so cheap to try so much in a low cost technology world.

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Some companies are infallible, or are they?

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on May 8, 2014

In a classic case of economic externalities, privacy has become the hot issue in the Digital Industrial Complex. It’s the industrial pollution equivalent of the digital era. There’s a lot of attention going to startups which circumvent or avoid centralisation of their services, or use what is becoming known as Block Chain technology. In fact famed Venture Capitalist Fred Wilson is calling their 2014 fund the Block Chain cycle. In simple terms, startups in which the information is distributed across the network of users, rather than stored in the companies server farms.

It got me thinking about how what seem like minor road bumps can become the key factors which entirely disrupt companies and industries. Privacy could be the type of road bump which up ends businesses, whose infrastructure is based on an old method. That method being, centralised data aggregation and distribution. I’m talking about brands like Google and Facebook. Companies who at this very moment seem entirely infallible, simply too important, big and powerful to ever lose their position of dominance. Personally, I don’t think it will happen, because unfortunately most people have a level of apathy where they usually don’t care about a potential problem until it really becomes one. And even then they sometimes still don’t care – just look at the climate change issue. Why this is interesting is that the thing which disrupted the recording industry, the retail industry and many others was that the infrastructure they set up became a distinct disadvantage. I’m starting to wonder if internet based companies with centralised data systems are creating an infrastructure which isn’t in line with a shift which technology seems to wants to make happen. The shift to distributed data.

Some recent numbers on a search engine called Duck Duck Go – a privacy based search engine are interesting. It is growing rapidly. Here’s a description of what they do straight from Wikipedia:

DuckDuckGo is an Internet search engine that emphasizes protecting searchers’ privacy and avoiding the  filter bubble of personalized search results. DuckDuckGo distinguishes itself from other search engines by not profiling its users and by deliberately showing all users the same search results for a given search term. DuckDuckGo also emphasizes getting information from the best sources rather than the most sources, generating its search results from key crowd sourced sites such as Wikipedia.. 

Here’s a chart of the recent growth that Duck Duck Go has achieved:

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While this search engine doesn’t operate on a distributed system, it is interesting to see how a slightly different proposition to the incumbent can have a lot of meaning to groups of end users. Yes, it’s tiny in the scheme of search, but this is how change begins. Every disruptor was insignificant at some point. And we’ve already seen the disruptors being disrupted. For example streaming music impacting iTunes business in the space of under 10 years. It seems like dominance occurs in shorter life spans now.

The key thing that we shouldn’t forget is that once powerful organisations can fall quickly. They seem infallible, untouchable. But the two things we ought remember are that companies like Ford once had a Google-like air about them and in a digital world the barriers to entry and dissemination of change are lower than ever.

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