Start Up Blog

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:

Screen Shot 2014-05-08 at 10.58.25 am

 

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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Brand Play

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on April 2, 2012

I am seriously in love with the Google maps 8 bit – bit for April fools day. So much so, that immediately after I write this post I will be going to Google maps to get my street and suburb (Yarraville) in screen shots in their 8 Bit version. You should too.

And by the way – brands that know how to play are brands that win. Especially in a startup world.

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My Google Plus Problem

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on July 26, 2011

Like most people I recently joined Google plus. I went in and set up my account. I was reasonably impressed and it looked quite cool. It had a couple of nice ideas, including the circles of friends concept of segmenting conversations. After I set up the account, it has been on my list of things to do. That is, to go into it, have a play around, get used to the system and better understand it.

A few weeks later I still haven’t done it.

The interesting thing is that during this time I have still engaged with the social networks I already use. Including this blog and my twitter account. Turns out I still have time for social networks, just not that one. The only reason I will use Google plus is because I need to know about it, not because I need it. The fact that I need to invest time to ‘learn how to navigate and use it’,  is also sub optimal.

If everyone ends up loving Google plus, I’m sure I’ll get on board. But my Google Plus problem is that currently I don’t have a social networking problem.

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60 seconds on the web

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on June 16, 2011

The world moves fast. When we we’re unconnected the speed of change went unnoticed. Now that we all have digital footprints, we can track all that happens. This amazing and statistically rich infographic is solid reminder of the world we live in. It’s also very cool that most of these business are startups that aren’t even teenagers yet. I’ve pulled out the numbers and got the pic below.

60 seconds on the web:

  • 12,000+ new ads posted on Craigslist
  • 370,000+ minutes of voice calls on Skype
  • 98,000+ tweets
  • 320+ new twitter accounts
  • 100+ new Linkedin accounts
  • 6,600+ photos uploaded to Flickr
  • 50+ wordpress CMS downloads & 125+ plugins
  • 695,000 facebook status updates, 80,000 wall posts and 510,040 comments
  • 1,700 firefox downloads
  • 694,445 google searches
  • 168 million emails sent (of which 92% is spam)
  • 60+ new blogs & 1500+ new blog posts
  • 70+ new domains are registered
  • 600+ new Youtube videos are uploaded. 25+ hours in duration
  • 150+ questions are asked in Question forums
  • 13,000+ iPhone apps are downloaded
  • 20,000 new posts on Tumblr.
  • I new definition added to Urban Dictionary 
  • 1,600+ reads on Scribd.

And here is what it looks like:

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2 horse race

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on May 10, 2011

If you haven’t already read the 22 Laws of marketing – then you should. It’s a short book which really should be called the 22 laws on entrepreneurship. It seems that most of the laws are true on a category scale – the type of scale that startups with big dreams should pay attention two. recently I’ve been reminded of the law 8: The law of duality.

The Law of Duality says that “in the long run, every market becomes a two-horse race.”

The most recent example of this is Twitter and Facebook. it seems as though they’ve won the social web race. Every brand or advertisement is now tagged with ‘find us on Twitter & Facebook’. We have to look pretty hard to find any of the other 400+ social networking sites. It seems the Law of duality is still true almost 2 years after it was written. It seems that certain power laws of dominance still exist, even though we all like to believe the market has fragmented and opened up for everyone….

The truth is there is only so much space in the mind. We can’t carry the baggage of too many ideas with us. So we simplify by limiting what we participate in. There’s lots new world industry examples of the law of duality.

Social: Facebook  & Twitter

Search: Google & Bing

Mobile: iPhone & Android

Computers: PC & Mac

The question for internet entrepreneurs, is which new categories are still to get their number 2 player. That is where the opportunity lies.

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10 years in Tech

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on April 23, 2011

A short review of some of the changes in technology in the past 10 years. Who has arrived on the seen, what’s different and new and how Moore’s law is still rapidly changing the world. Enjoy!

10 years in Tech
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Gamification is coming…

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on February 14, 2011

I wrote an article for the Sydney Morning Herald newspaper on Gamification. I plan to extend the thought experiment here with a longer blog entry on it. So in preparation here is a link to the original article:

“Consumers know the score in the ultimate reality game”


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Year in review – Google Style

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on December 17, 2010

It’s interesting how technology changes the way we interact. In fact, the way we do a year in review is also changing as Google show here with their Zeitgeist 2010 video. I’m sure there is something in this for everyone, not just retrospectively, but the type of stuff that will matter in our business prospectively.

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Google overtaken by Facebook? Not really.

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on March 17, 2010

It’s all over the news that Facebook has overtaken Google in terms of traffic in the USA.

But make no mistake, Google has not been overtaken by Facebook. Facebook is a long way off Google as far as commercial success is concerned. The importance difference, which isn’t about to change anytime soon is this:

People do business with Google.

People socialize on Facebook.

And just like any party, they tend to fizzle out. This seemingly small difference has a dramatic impact on their futures. My analogy is that of a fun park versus CBD. Facebook is being touted as the final platform, the social network to beat all social networks. And yes, it still has some laughable valuations ($100 billion) .

The reality is that numbers can be very deceiving, and when looked at arbitrarily like this, and I’m still certain the value of each Facebook visitor is marginal compared to that of Google. The question I asked myself is this: Could I live without Facebook? Yes. Could I live without Google? No. I’m not about to predict the future, but I want to leave startup blog readers with a reminder that statistics only have value when they are placed in context.

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Can boring brands create word of mouth?

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on March 8, 2010

This is the sixth of my crowd sourced blog entry ideas as suggested by Ben Rowe. Ben wanted to get my thoughts on the following: 

“Can boring brands and products create word of mouth?” Discuss.

In a word, no. But given the task is to discuss, I’d say the fact that matters here is the word emotion. Does a brand generate an emotional response from the audience. Does it generate passion and fervor?  Good or bad? If the response isn’t emotional. There will be no discussion.

The product or service may be very good, have a reasonable price and even be a market leader. Yes it may suffice or dominate it’s category, like cornflakes do as breakfast cereal, but I’m hardly about to email my brother with a link to the Kelloggs website.

We need to think about things that are emotional responses: Joy, Anger, Sadness, Elation, Fury, Disappointment, Love, Hate….

The heavy emotions every human is familiar with. A brand has to engender these type of emotional responses to get on the word of mouth agenda. Case in point is banks. They are seen to take advantage of their customers, and we have a strong distrust and hate for them. And even though the response is negative, it’s emotional and generates a great deal of discussion. That is, it’s not boring. It’s often the case that brands which have factional parties in the for and against camp (love / hate) generate the most word of mouth. Some recent examples of brands with this effect include:

Hummer

Krispy Kreme

Mac

Google

Will it blend

Cadbury Gorilla

All of these have been worth talking about. Our brand reputations as people wouldn’t be hindered if we mentioned these.

As far as start ups are concerned we should thinking less about trying to generate a viral campaign, and more about the emotional impact our offer has on our audience. Being new and innovative isn’t enough, it’s got to have an emotional impact on people. With boring brands we are simply indifferent, and so we just get on with our lives.

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