Start Up Blog

Falling in love with infrastructure

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on July 4, 2011

Here’s a list of companies who should’ve done something, yet instead, let someone else do it for them. And in being asleep at the wheel, they will never be as powerful (read relevant) again.

Yellow Pages should have become… Google
Encyclopaedia Britannica should have become… Wikipedia
RCA / Sony / BMG / EMI / Warner should have become… iTunes
Newspaper classifieds should have become… Craigs List
Trading Post should have become… eBay
Barns & Noble should have become… Amazon
Industry X could well become… Your startup

The key point is this. The future doesn’t care about your legacy, or how things were done in the past, it only cares about what people actually want. And people don’t care about your existing infrastructure, they only care about themselves.

There’s a million more of these examples out there, and many more to come. The question is which industry will you disrupt because they are too in love with their existing infrastructure?

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Why geolocating is huge

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on March 22, 2011

Geo locating is getting big. Real big. Let’s take Four Square as an example; last year over 6 million people checked into over 380 million retail locations. Something is really happening here, yet the doubters are strong with their voices of incredulousness. They can’t understand why anyone cares where they are, or why they’d want to share such personal information publicly, or with their on-line friends.  Rather than argue, I thought it was worth posing some of the human reasons why geolocating might be so appealing, an anthropological journey if you like.

The web wants to replicate life – Because it is a form of life. It loves to get physical, real and human… because it’s made by humans for humans.

The 3 ‘human’ reasons why geo-locating will only get bigger are:

1. Who’s here?

People want to see who else is where they are. Are their friends here to? it’s a great way for us to cross the virtual chasm into a physical reality.

2. My life is cool – I’m cool.

See how cool I am being at this particular place. it’s so cool you don’t even know where it is, and here I am…. proven via my smart phone GPS. I’m so cool, I’m teaching you the cool places to be. And I’m showing you how mobile I am and all the cool places to go to – like SXSW.

3. Reward me.

Heck, If I’m going to get a takeaway coffee everyday, I might as well go to the place that gives their Four Square mayor a free espresso on Friday or rewards you after X check ins. You want me to be loyal? You better reward me.

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I feel like we are only just starting to see the potential of geo-locating in terms of startup and marketing. It really does feel like the missing link between the virtual and the physical. And for those who are concerned about privacy, like all technology, our choice is a simple one:

Embrace it, or miss out on the benefits.

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Revolutions and pleasure

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on June 27, 2010

In the October 1994 Issue of Wired, Gary Wolfe said in an article,  article about Mosiac (the worlds first GUI web browser) and the coming internet revolution.

“When it comes to smashing a paradigm, pleasure is not the most important thing…

it is the only thing.”

Startup blog asks this:

What kind of pleasure is your startup bringing to its people?

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How hard you worked is irrelevant

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on June 21, 2010

It’s what we create for the people who care. The truth is we never know how hard it was to deliver the right product, at the right place at the right time. We only care that it was.

What we (the entrepreneurs, producers, marketers) had to go through is not part of the consideration set. It isn’t charity, it’s about them. So if we nail it and deliver the project quickly, we needn’t feel guilty or less deserving. Likewise, if it took us 5 years of hard working weekends and nights, that’s also no reason to feel a level of entitlement. We need to feel what they feel – underwhelmed or overwhelmed with what we deliver, how we got there is far less important.

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It’s our audience, not a target

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on June 8, 2010

There’s quite a few bad words used in business and marketing. Words which quantify, extract and segment. They dehumanise business. I’d like to see them removed from our vernacular. Here’s two examples worth sharing.

Target & Consumer. I prefer Audience and People and here’s why:

A Target is something we aim for, shoot at, maybe even kill. An Audience is something we try to impress. An audience gives us a chance to prove our worth, they invest their time in us and we must respect it by trying to over deliver to their expectations. In the hope that, they throw flowers on the stage, cheer and ask for an encore. But we enter the stage knowing we may get rotten tomatoes thrown at us, if that’s what we deserve. The onus is on us.

A Consumer is someone who buys stuff. Their primary purpose is to devour whatever we provide. They are faceless, nameless and irrelevant. We want as many of them as possible to fulfill our financial needs. A Person however, is someone we know. A person has emotions, ambitions and meaning in their life. They have opinions which we must value, and a life which we need to enhance. A person is someone we hope to relate to on a human level. A consumer is machine like and undervalued.

The best startups and brands, know that they need to perform for their audience. They know that audiences are made up of people.

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Brand Trust

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on April 5, 2010

Apple Inc sold an amazing 700,000 ipads on launch day. That’s around $350 million in revenue in one day. Most of the eager purchasers didn’t have full knowledge of what the gadget was even capable of. Which makes me ask these simple questions:

(A) Is Apple the most trusted brand in the world with loyalists? (B) And if so what creates such zealotry?

Startup Blog Answers:

(A) Yes, I think so.

(B) Abridged answer: Over delivering to expectations on multiple occasions.

The only other brands I can even think of people buying into without knowing what they are actually getting is the ever lasting life that comes with most religions!

Startup blog says: Over deliver, be patient and get compound returns.

Originality is for artists

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on March 30, 2010

There are no prizes for originality in business. There is no shame in copying others, sorry – idea borrowing. So many aspiring entrepreneurs say they are just waiting for a great idea. The original idea for them to launch a startup under. I was once this person too. And I was so very wrong. I learned the hard way by losing half a million in venture funding that originality is over rated. I’m convinced highly original ideas increase our probability of financial failure.

The startup blog view is this: originality is for artists.


Let me explain. People want change they can cope with, and so the business world (consumers) are most likely to reward incremental improvements. Ideas which people can cope with. Ideas that are easy to spread because the audience has a reference point. Something to switch to, a substitute. Yes, radical products and services can be a success, but they are so rare (especially with low and self funded businesses) that it is tactically foolish to chase them. We ought leave that to large corporations, and heavily VC backed startups.

It comes back to our objective – do we want to run a business, or be original? It’s rare to achieve both, so make the choice early and know whether you are an artist or an entrepreneur.

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Be needed

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on December 23, 2009

Our job as entrepreneurs is really to build a business in which people depend on. The best we can possibly hope for is having a group of people at both ends of the value chain who really need us. Not just customers, but suppliers as well.

Suppliers who need us to succeed so they can feed off our success. Customers who need our stuff to get through their months, weeks or days. When we are needed, we are on our way to have a solid business.

Do your people in your supply chain need you to exist?

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The end of television

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on November 24, 2009

There’s been a lot of talk about the end of television lately. You’ve heard it all. But one simple fact I heard today reminded me today of why television is doomed.

The end of the ratings period.

Yep, that old chestnut. But let’s stop and think for moment what it means and the legacy issues associated with the concept of the rating and non-rating periods.

It was something television could do. It could ‘have a holiday’. It could do this for one simple reason, it had no real competitors. TV broadcasters justified their actions too. They told us that their TV stars needed a break. They told us they were getting ready for the new season with great new episodes and shows. They told us we could enjoy our favourite re-runs. Sure we could go down the the video rental store, but it was much harder than turning on a television and a poor substitute at best.

Today, the end of the ratings period is a continued legacy which proves that broadcasters still don’t get it. We don’t care what time of year it is, we don;’t have to. We still spend money. The economy keeps churning. We still want current, new, exciting information and entertainment. Good news for us is that now we can go elsewhere to get it. And it’s more convenient than TV. It’s on demand, and uninterrupted. The fact that the ratings period still exists today has me flummoxed.

And as long as the television broadcasting industry thinks it can get away with it’s ‘holiday’, it is yet to understand what is happening. It alone is proof TV as an industry, is doomed. This little thing, the non-ratings period, is proof they don’t believe that is the end of their cosy little attention monopoly.

Good bye television, hope you enjoyed your stay.

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the 5% rule

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on October 2, 2009

5% of our customers wont pay on time

5% of our customers wont pay at all

5% of our employees wont deliver what they are paid to

5% of our employees will steal and or damage company property

5% of business partners will break contracts and even worse, not keep their word

5% the people we meet will be genuinly dishonest and painful to deal with

It’s the 5% rule. In fact quite often business discussion are too often focused on the 5% of times the business model will break down and we will get cheated in some way. The amount of strategy, board room and agency discussions I’ve had about the 5% of people who make business models and ideas imperfect are countless. The point for startups, no less any business, is to accept the fact that all models have gaps. And more often than not these gaps the doing of the 5% rule.

the 5% rule

The problems with trying to remove the 5% is that we build gates and protections which often stuff up the 95% which is working. We create unnecessary friction. What we are better off doing is thinking about the problem like water evaporation. It’s going to happening, no matter what we try. But we must remember that the very large majority of people are good.

My advice is simple. Know that it exists, and forge ahead anyway.

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