Paul Graham of Y Combinator fame has to be one of the sharpest startup minds on this humble planet. His essays on the topics of business, culture and startups are nothing short of genius. I was catchup up on his work recently I found his essay on Frighteningly Ambitious Startup Ideas simply gripping.
If you haven’t happened upon his writings yet, I suggest you log out some time to do it. You’ll be so inspired you might just start to get amped up and take some serious action. They are another reminder of how lucky we are in this day and age to have free and omnipresent access to the worlds greatest thinkers who share their philosophy and ideas for free.
In my previous blog entry I spoke about ‘leveraging the wood chips’. Which is an old business maxim on how whatever we do has some kind of externality, off cut or by product which can be leveraged (very often sold) in some way to invent a new revenue stream. And while it may be obvious that many large business have such an opportunity, we also have this opportunity as individuals to realise the value of our wood chips.
Before I get into the what and how we can leverage our wood chips, let me share a couple of examples of well known brands, companies and products which are essentially ‘the wood chips’ – which incidentally comes from the obvious description of what we can do with timber off cuts from some kind of craftsmanship.
Vegemite: Australia’s largest brewers including CUB (now SAB) sell their brewers yeast (a form of woodship) to Kraft foods to make Vegemite from. All my Australian readers will now how big this brand and business is.
Paddle Pop: The Australian stick ice cream stalwart is actually what is called a ‘re-work’. The raw materials are the off cuts from other more premium ice creams in the factory.
Ruby on Rails: Is a software programming language that was developed for the building of Basecamp – a 37 Signals application. Which has now become a general programming language that was released to the public as an open source platform – as a gift.
LPG – LPG is synthesised by refining petroleum or wet natural gas. Liquid Petroleum gas can be used to run cars and heat homes. At first it was wasted, then it was captured and used.
Infact, many of the startups funds and Angel investing organsations are the wood chips of previously successful entrepreneurs.
My wood chips
In the first instance I took my Marketing skills into the web startup entrepreneurial scene when I launch rentoid.com. While I had virtually zero web and tech skills I made up for the gaps in project management, promoting my work and understanding consumer trends.
After I launch rentoid successfully as a ‘boot strapped’ business – this blog became a source of woodchips where I could further share and promote my ideas as they developed.
My Startup School, was the wood chips of rentoid and this blog – all pulled together as intense weekend where I share all my key learnings over 2 years into 2 days. Hence providing a valuable short cut to others entering the space.
Public Speaking is something that I have embarked upon more recently where I share ideas on business, the digital landscape and marketing. The real reason this is possible is due to the amount of pitching I have done in my own business endeavours. Without realising I became quite a proficient public speaker for which I am now regularly paid very well to do.
There are others, but you get the picture.
We all have some form of wood chips we can leverage and generate revenue from. Often at a higher rate in relation to the investment required to generate them – remember they are essentially an externality. We just need to stretch our imagination to see what they are, and most important let people know we have them on offer.
Happy wood chipping!
This was just so brilliant I had to re-post it here in its entirety. The 12 most powerful words in business from Ragans PR daily.
Office conference rooms, cubicles, corner offices, and common areas are crammed with business jargon that dulls imaginations and saps creativity.
Many powerful words for business have nary a thing to do, directly, with industry.
Polite push back can temper groupthink. Ask why “things have always been done that way.” Or ask why it didn’t work the last time you tried it.
People like proof. They want to see things with their own eyes. It’s human nature. In trying to reach and win customers, clients, colleagues, or management, show your ideas with examples. Draw an analogy, give an anecdote, paint a picture. Help them see what you see. Show them, and they’ll be more likely to get it and get on board.
Trying something that didn’t work, as long as it wasn’t impulsively foolish, dangerous, or illegal, can be regarded as the trial run or first draft.
Breathe, pause and collect yourself before you send an email while angry, take criticism too personally, or speak when emotion is clouding your judgment. The repair work required after you lash out is wasteful, unproductive, and inefficient.
Sure, market testing and focus groups have their place. But business success takes action and plenty of doing.
Hearing is a function. Listening is a skill. It takes practice. But it yields immeasurable dividends. Extra points if you listen, consider alternative options and critical feedback, and adjust course because of it.
The staggering pace of growth in social media shows how essential it is to learn all through life. Learning can mean formal training, of course. But learning also happens by staying nimble enough to act when opportunities appear.
Being open-minded—open to change, open to being wrong, and open to new possibilities—can lead to new products, new clients, new markets, and entirely new ways of doing business.
Civility eases differences among humans. When I was an editorial writer, my colleagues and I would gather each morning to discuss the official position the Cleveland Plain Dealer would take on the most controversial topics of the day.
Politics, religion, social issues—you name it. It worked well largely because the group was civil and respectful. And our boss was an awesome leader who made sure the discussions stayed that way.
Leading is much more powerful than managing. Think about it: You manage problems. You manage bills. Or you manage just to cope. Leading, on the other hand, is nuanced, customized, and inspired.
Fear of failing keeps people from doing all sorts of things: Piping up at a meeting with an idea, starting a business, or taking other risks. Failing is really an inevitable part of taking risks. And taking risks is an inevitable part of a strong business.
After failing, it’s important to learn what when wrong and how to do it better next time. This is the true secret of missteps. Through the lessons learned in the aftermath, greatness can emerge.
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.
An important fact that emplyees and entrepreneurs ought remember:
You can’t sell your job.
Yes, we can build personal brand equity, but the revenue and value we create belongs to the owner of the organization we work for.
This leads me to an important factor that we must remember when we set out out on our way into startup land. We get the uncommon opportunity to get twice the benefit of everything we create. Let me explain.
Whenever we make a sale – we get to keep the gross margin. Put it in our pockets as profit. If we do this often enough, and well enough we also usually have a residual amount that we can pay ourselves as a wage. (yes, it is the opposite of what most people think, profits come before wages when we are building a business.) But the real kicker is revenue we create becomes a sale-able asset. We can sell our invented revenue stream. What this means is that for every dollar we earn, that is a dollar that we can sell. It’s a kind of entrepreneurial double dipping. And this is exactly the same thing the company anyone works for is doing by employing people.
The reason we can sell this revenue, is that the average sale price of a company is its annual revenue figure. So $1 in in real terms equals $2 generated.
Startup Blog says – get out there and generate.
My regular readers will know that 2 weeks ago I released a video of a Lego Space Shuttle that we got into actual space. Quite frankly I was surprised at how much attention it got both on-line and in mainstream media (TV, newspaper, magazine & radio). It has had over 1 million views on Youtube alone. It really got me thinking about what tends to win attention in today’s connected economy, and although I don’t really know the answer, it feels more like simply joys and personal interest work better on line than commercial intentions or hard nosed value equations.
And while I’d much rather one of my businesses get this amount of coverage – it has lead to a lot of interesting business opportunities and offers. The attention generated has become its own asset. It has become a proof point in the people behind it and so it creates intrigue from others who want to simply do cool stuff.
So the question for startup entreprenuers is this:
What cool side projects can we do to generate attention around, so that our bigger ideas can attract the resources they need?
If you wanted to learn how to speak French and I could give you a choice to achieve one of the following two options, which would you choose:
- To get an ‘A’ on your report card.
- To be fluent in the language.
Without a thought you would choose the second option. The second option clearly has more value than the first option. Even though the first option, may include the second, neither two are interlinked by default.
It’s an interesting analogy we can use when it comes to business objectives, brand propositions, and why we are embarking upon our latest startup mission. Do we want a number? (the A) Or do we really want thing that the number describes? (Fluency).
What’s also interesting is that speaking any language well is a life vocation, native tongue or otherwise. The achievement is not marked via formal qualifications, and language is most recognised when it has been learned on the street. A lot like business acumen in today’s rapidly changing world. The reality is greater than the certificate.
While fluency might be far too arduous a task for many of us, it’s important to recognise what we are really striving for before we even start.
Felling a bit ‘listy’ lately, so here is one of 10 books that really helped shape my life and startup philosophy in the past few years. Of course this list is non-exhaustive and in no particular order.
- The alchemist
- Purple cow
- The intelligent investor
- A random walk down Wall st.
- 22 laws of marketing
- A whole new mind
- The clue train manifesto
- The cashflow quadrant
- The long tail
What books have shaped you?