Start Up Blog

Start with fiction

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on October 28, 2013

While many startups are new versions of existing ideas, in our quieter moments all entrepreneurs would freely admit they wouldn’t mind changing the world. Me included.

If we want to do this, then one of the most important things we can do is ignore the facts.

Facts specialise in yesterday. They are by definition an historical account of what we understood or what happened. Even science continues to disprove previously held scientific facts – the most recent being the quantum revolution, which among other things has proven that atoms can be in more than one place at the same time.

In startups we should start with fiction. An imagined world of what we’d like to see or create. We need to remember that the concept of ‘what works’ is by definition really, only what has worked. That ‘the way it is’, can only actually be about the way it was. And ‘the way to do it’, is really just a way in which it has been done.

Our job as entrepreneurs is really about turning today’s fiction into tomorrows facts. While this doesn’t mean we should go live with the fairies, it does mean we should sometimes ignore the so called rational.


Monday is your friend

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on October 27, 2013

I’m typing this on  a Sunday evening. I’ve had various times in my life when I used to hate Sunday, not due to its own features and benefits, but because it was the pre-amble to Monday. Mondayitus.  The dread for Monday was so deep and worrisome that it ruined the day before it which is was a free day. And what is more ironic is that I even liked Thursday more than I liked Friday, because Friday was too close to Monday. It is strange indeed how our minds can work. Sometimes it is worth listening to the strange.

Tonight, I went for a jog and I was genuinely excited about the week ahead and couldn’t even wait for Monday to get some of my projects underway. We are doing another world first for Tomcar Australia which will be global news. I’m attending the FML this Wednesday night to help jumpstart the maker movement in my fair city Melbourne. I’m working on a few Hackathons for some big corporates. I’m doing a new talk on the ‘future of work’, which I will deliver at the co-work in the lane way for the Hub Melbourne. Working on a new technology related property  development. Shipping the Super Awesome thing & person from Romania. Working on my new book and might even be launching my new startup by the end of the week. I can’t wait.

I’ve decided that Monday is our best friend. There is nothing more telling in life than how we feel about it. Monday knows all. It is about time we started listening to our internal mental Monday sermon and tried and create a Monday that Monday actually appreciates. I ignored Monday for a while, but now I’m listening to it again and it is helping me smile.

As far as I can tell our Mondays are the ultimate arbiter of happiness.


The 2 types of reading

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on October 8, 2013

Now that we all have reading devices permanently placed in our pockets we can catch up on our reading at any time. For me this presents an interesting set of considerations we should be aware of:

  • Does it increase the amount of reading we do, or just change when we do our reading?
  • Are there only so many words we want to read each day?
  • What do we read during our ‘mobile’ reading times: Social media, news, articles, books or all of them – versus our home reading time?
  • Are we in a space for which quiet consideration and reflection is even possible when we read?

It got me thinking that much of the reading we do now is more disposable than ever. A type of mind junk food for which there is often little intellectual nutrition. I’ve been as guilty as anyone wanting to know the latest business, technology and startup news. The type of stuff which is interesting to know but wont compound our knowledge.

I feel like reading has now split into two categories much like food has:

  1. Fast Reading – The latest stuff, a quick mind fix, but with little long term value. Disposble.
  2. Slow reading – Tome orientation which has a longer term perspective, directional postulations and philosophical musings. Timeless

I’m trying to focus on the latter, because if we have a foundation of thought we can easily digest the latest trends or factoids. But more importantly, add a rounded perspective which instigates a personal opinion. We go beyond regurgitation and develop thought leadership.

The key question I now ask myself is this: Will what I am reading be relevant 5 years from now? In truth it doesn’t matter where, how or with what device we consume it, but the reality is our immediate environment often shapes our consumption behaviour. We need new habit awareness during times of technology transition.

At the end of the day, it becomes a choice between knowing  the latest news or tactics, or having understanding of the larger shifts and building a philosophy. I know which one I’d rather choose.



Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on October 1, 2013

The pace of change is overwhelming. Many established companies have finally realised that this change isn’t just a little blip in the way things are done, but an entire business eco system reorganisation. It’s fair to say that the level of  corporate anxiety is at an all time high, and with good reason. Only 57 companies still remain on the inaugural Fortune 500 list from 1955, while more than half of the Fortune 500 companies were not in it just 10 years ago.  And while the cost of not adapting to the digital era is likely to be extinction, it seems as though every day I see yet another story of a large legacy market leader who is, to put it bluntly, Kodaking.

Kodaking is the term I now use to explain a company implementing strategies which are fundamentally flawed in the new business infrastructure. But before I go through the signs of a firm who is Kodaking, I’ll recap some of the terrible decisions made by the once revered imaging company.

Kodak’s Digital Camera from 1975:

First ever digital camera - kodak 1975

- – -

Kodak had over $16B in revenue in the late 1990’s – yet is bankrupt today. In fact they recently sold 1,100 of their remaining valuable digital imagery patents to a consortium of Apple, Samsung, Google and others for the sum of $527 million in a bid to restructure and salvage something. They ironically invented the digital camera in 1975, but had little incentive to facilitate its mass marketing as it disrupted their highly profitable film sale and processing business. As late as 2004 Kodak in their wisdom stupidity attempted to sell digital cameras which plugged onto home based printers so they could continue with their old model of selling chemical film for profit. Here’s the kicker though…. What they did do, share memories, ‘Kodak moments’, has never been in stronger demand than it is today. Twice as many photos have been shared in the first half of this year as were shared in all of last year. What is facebook other than a Kodak moment 2.0? Facebook’s market capitalisation is (as of today) $122b while Kodak had a market value of only $28b at its peak. In fact there is no limit of new and large brands who took what Kodak resisted – Flickr, Instagram, Smartphones, GoPro,  parts of Google, elements of Apple…. the list is long.  Kodak could obviously see the future, because they invented most of it. But they were greedy. What they really failed to do was connect people, the way the people wanted to connect. They tried to dictate the methods of visual connection with people.  As we know technology has no respect for the past, and our strategy must always be defined by our audience’s desires. They recognised the technology, but failed to open their mind to the revenue possibilities of it, and play the long game.

So how do we avoid Kodaking? Here are some things to look out for:

  • Shelving technology which is less profitable, but highly probable to redefine a market.
  • Defining the company by product portfolio instead of human needs underneath them (see the Marketing Myopia).
  • Trying to find new ways to keep old revenue models alive.
  • Not asking these core questions often enough: What business are we in? What business do we need to be in?
  • Internal talk about the advantages of scale and infrastructure, when the opposite is true.
  • Ignoring the potential of disruptive startups in adjacent industries.
  • Trying to charge a fee for what can now be found elsewhere for free.
  • Competing for market share in an existential pie (Kodak vs Fuji vs Agfa). The future is often in baking a new market share pie.
  • Not entirely embracing technology as a mandatory company focus.

Startup blog says: Don’t be Kodaking.


Why you don’t fit in at your company

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on September 22, 2013

Over my career I’ve worked for a number of companies, as well as my own startups. And while I invested a good number of years working for others (as an entrepreneur with 1 really big and important customer – which is how I define it any time I am employed, as we all should), I always found that I didn’t quite fit in. I never really fit the bill. Sure, I delivered, I think I even over delivered on many occasions, But I was always a problem child.

I hope for your sake you feel this way too. While it can be uncomfortable at times, it is the muse trying really hard to tell you something, and that something is this:

You are an exotic bird.

Therefore you do not belong in a cage. Therefore your output (egg) is rare. It is possibly a different colour, size, shape and taste. It’s unusual, and so they don’t know how to deal with it. It is not what they expect, and they panic and don’t know how to cook it, or sell it. If they did, they might realise your eggs are worth much more money in the right market. But chances are they’d rather sell the same eggs, to the same people they sold to yesterday. You’ve laid some of these eggs over time, but it turned you inside out…. It wasn’t really you, even though you proved you could do it. When you showed them your natural exotic output, they didn’t want it. Instead they wanted the same eggs being laid by everyone, everyday. They just wanted more of them, and at a cheaper price than yesterday.

If this feels like you, you’re not alone. And if you do manage to escape the coop, and find, or better still, build the right nest, know it will be worth the effort. Exotic birds get paid a lot more for their eggs once they are in the right environment. But in the wrong environment, they are just seen as defects.


How to be a go getter

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on September 18, 2013

Be a go giver instead. 

It feels better and works better.


Just some yellow rope

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on September 11, 2013

The uber observant Ross Hill sent me an email with a comment from my spaceship orbit video I did with Raul a little while ago. Which we both agreed was worth its own blog post.

‘Just some yellow rope’ – read the dialogue below between Raul and a commenter on youtube.

just some yellow rope

There are two clear points for me here.

  1. Be like Ross – pay attention. Lessons are everywhere.
  2. The solutions are almost always simpler than they seem.


Beers, Blokes & Business – Podcast

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on September 7, 2013

Podcasting is back baby – and this time it’s bigger than ever. It seems as though after an initial flurry in the early web 2.0 era that people have rediscovered podcasting. Quite possible driven by quicker 3g downloads, smart phones and bigger data limits? – who knows. Let’s face it we can’t always give our eyeballs up while we are busy, but our ears can take in some vital information while working, exercising and doing pretty much anything.

Beers Blokes Business - logo

Well some local Melbourne Startup Techie Business nerds have got together to share some insights once a week based on our own little journeys. We like to call it Beers Blokes & Business. A simple format really. We get together on a monday night, one of the blokes buys an interesting beer, we crack one open, he tells us why he chose it, and then we get into the business topic of the day. But it is always full strength banter.

The suspects are usual and include:

Sean Callanan (the founding father)

babyface Josh Rowe

Jim Stewart

James Noble

Luke McCormack

Steve Vallas

Scott Kilmartin

You can click on this link to follow the ‘blokes’ on twitter and see more about our backgrounds. Each podcast includes 3 or 4 of the blokes depending on who is available that night.

So far we have published three of our podcasts and have hit the global top 100 for business podcasts on iTunes. So, the world is voting and they are feeling the banter. The really refreshing element is that it is not a mutual love fest and we all keep each other grounded with some classic sledging.

The three podcasts topics so far are:

#BBB 1. Self Learning – which was inspired by the tweet below:

Screen Shot 2013-09-07 at 12.58.03 PM

#BBB 2.  Build your network -

#BBB 3. Manage that side project -

They typically go for 40 mins in 2 x 20 minute parts. Idea for the commute or while exercising or in the gym. So be sure to add it to your podcast list on itunes here >>> click here for #BBB goodness. Actually the description on iTunes is pretty funny but I can’t take credit for it.

So have a listen and be sure to let me know what you think, and if you have any topic ideas leave them in the comment.


The 200 year shift

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on August 22, 2013

I was recently in Perth for and presented at the Agile Perth MeetUp. The presentation I gave was entitled the 200 year shift. It’s a ‘living’ presentation which I’ve been working on for around 7 years – and it explores the end of the industrial era and the transition into a digital age. An age where most every industry is up for grabs as the rules are reinvented and barriers to entry are entirely evaporating.

I was totally thrilled when local UX legend Gary Barber did a live sketch of the concepts I was sharing. As is by séance Gary managed to visualise all my words into exactly what was in my head. He then shared the results on Flickr and posted in his twitter stream. What is amazing is that he did it all live, and some the the pieces I spoke about for a mere minute, and yet he managed to capture the essence. I later found out that he has a habit of creating such cool visuals. A picture of it is below. But before you have a look at it, here is a simple idea:

Next time you are running an event or conference with thought leading ideas: Get Gary on board to draw up some live info graphs for everyone to take home and remember what they learned, to pin on their offices walls, and just appreciate the power of thought and poignant art work.

Nice job Gary – and thanks!

200 Year Shift Sketch


The Moldova connection

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on August 21, 2013

In what seems like a century ago I built and launched one of the first peer to peer websites –

In order to build the site, I outsourced the coding on a site called oDesk. This site and others of its ilk are a great entrepreneurial equaliser – for they reduce the barriers to entry. Not just in terms of price for the services, but also by allowing non techies gain access to techie services. They also allow eco systems to flourish across international borders. But they have an added benefit… a real benefit which isn’t spoken about all that often.

They facilitate an important cultural exchange.

Meet Vasilii Racovitsa – Pictured below – sharing a meal with me in my home. Doesn’t seem like such a big deal…

Vasilii Racovitsa

… Until you know that I first met Vasilii via oDesk as a freelanc web developer back in 2007. And that Vasilii was born during the cold war in the old USSR in a province called Moldova. [Moldova is now an independent country] While the relationship with Vasilii started as a commercial one, it is much more than that now. In fact, it has been much more than that for many years… he is a dear friend and business confidant for whom I want family and financial success as much as I want it for myself. But I just met him in real life for the first time last week.

Besides the fact that he made my first web play come to life, he also taught me more about technology than anyone else.  The truth is that the lower labour rates in Eastern Europe allowed me to arbitrage my way into techie / startup land. But most people falsely believe that lower labour rates in developing economies are a one way street. The the people in developed economies are the only beneficiaries, and that we ‘take advantage’ of those in less developed markets. In truth we’ve both benefitted dramatically. Through my local connections Vasilii now generates more that 50% of his business from Melbourne, a mere 14,854km from Moldova. Which is why he is here. He is here on a large project totally independent of me. A project which dwarfs anything he ever did for me.  But it was facilitated through the network I was introduced him to. What’s more interesting is that his business employs more people in Moldova than rentoid ever did here in Melbourne. And his development team now work in every form of coding / language / mobile dev you can think of.

Since he’s been here, it is like hanging out with a long lost relative. He’s just like the guy I used to speak to every day on skype… Which is a great reminder that the on-line and real world should only ever be pre-ambles to each other – seamlessly interchangeable.

I’m  keen to introduce him to everyone in our local startup community who likes to meet amazing, smart, helpful people. In the time and multiple projects I’ve worked with him on, he has never once gone over budget and always delivered to spec. Put simply, he keeps his promises.

This week I’ve shipped him into the abode of big Scott Kilmartin, who he has also done some work for. But if you’re keen to offer:

“a bed for beta”

“divan for development”

“a cot for code”

“a hammock for HTML”

…or a simple welcome to someone from our global community, then just let me know.

While the tools this digital revolution have provided us are amazing, it’s the connection to our world that we should be truely thankful for.



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