Start Up Blog

Just start working

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on March 22, 2014

If you want to work with someone, or for someone, people falsely believe that they have to ask for permission.  That they need approval to start  working with those who inspire them. The opposite is true and if we really want to work for someone, then all we need to do is start working for them. Start being a resource and creating value to what they do. It’s probably the best way to end up doing business with someone. To prove your capability, to demonstrate effort and to do it without asking for anything in return in the first instance. To be the resource.

I recently happened upon a great example of it. Aspiring advertising graduates went right ahead and did that for Tesla Motors. Here’s an advertisement they created below.

- – -

The interesting thing is that it got a all the way to Elon Musk.

Screen Shot 2014-03-22 at 3.22.00 pm

Just think about it, they’d never be able to get a meeting with him, to pitch an idea for an advertisement (mind you Tesla does not do any traditional advertising and does’t really need it – which is what happens when you make great products). But the lesson here is a vintage case of modern day bootstrapping. If we have resources at our disposal for connection and creativity, there’s nothing stopping us from using them. It’s those who create first without asking for anything who win respect and future opportunity.

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How a new brand can gain trust

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on February 25, 2014

This post by Seth Godin got me thinking about how to generate trust when we are a new brand or startup on the block. Here is what I think:

Building trust is simple. Create stories by doing things which exceed expectations. One customer at a time. When we do it, they share their good fortune to have done business with us. Trust never comes from the brand owner, but the interactions with the brand recipients. They then deliver that trust to others who buy the brand off them metaphorically. Thought they’d get X and they got X+1. They tell people about their win. We win by being generous.

Startup blog says: Generosity is the fulcrum of trust.

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A bit is gold

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on February 24, 2014

In the super terrific web series Comedians in cars getting coffee, Jerry Seinfeld (the host) was asked what he thinks has more value in comedy:

A funny story which is suitable for talk show

or

A small bit more suited to a stand up session

Jerry had an unequivocal answer. He said; ‘A bit is gold’. He went on to say it was superior in every way to a longer piece that requires more explanation, and that’s why you leave long stories for the talk show. The gold bits need to be left for the stage – where it really matters. It’s in this episode we can hear Jerry tell the tale.

It’s the same when it comes to marketing copy or web copy or pitching for a startup. There’s a temptation to not want to leave anything important out. To give all the details so the person can work out the important bit about the project. In some ways it is a form of justification of what we’re doing. A basic fear of the simple. Almost as if we are short changing the audience if we give them less. The ironic thing is that we almost always want less. When it comes to branding and marketing, just like comedy – sound bites are gold. They are customer winning, they are pitch winning and they are life winning. The longer story is inferior.

The added beauty of the soundbite is that the receiver creates the longer version. So soundbites work harder with more people. They tell themselves whatever story they want to from there. They add the layers they want according to their perception.  The sound bite is the seed, and the recipient is the soil.

Organise the worlds information

Change the world 140 characters at a time

A computer on every desk in every home

Yes we can

If people can remember our soundbites, that’s all they need to know.

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How to lose a customer

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on January 20, 2014

I’ve been using a certain weather app on my phone for some time. It is called Pocket Weather AU – Lite. It is the free version. A few times when I have clicked in to check the weather, it has given me this pop up screen below:

Pocket Weather

This time in good faith, I thought I’d click through and see what the offer was. To my disappointment, it was a simple ‘buy our paid version‘ of the app. No benefit, no exclusivity, nothing had been unlocked, no reason, no thanks for using. Just their way of asking me to upgrade. Now if you ask me there cannot be a more insulting way to incentivise a customer to upgrade. Tell them they are a cheapskate, pretend to offer something better, and then give them nothing for using the service for a few years.

Here’s what I did. I deleted their app – got another equally good free weather app, and wrote this blog entry about what I think might not be the best way to engage an audience your doing business with. Some things these guys might want to consider:

  1. If you don’t want your app to be free, then make it a paid version.
  2. Insulting people is not a very effective way to get them to upgrade financially to a software or web service.
  3. Making promises of exclusivity and non existent benefits is generally not a good idea.
  4. Understand the economics of excess supply. There are a zillion other free weather apps and my cost of moving to another service is close to zero.
  5. But mostly respect people, and maybe make them some kind of offer or reward for loyalty if employing a fermium business model.

I prefer to be positive in life, and have not even enjoyed writing this entry. Maybe that’s the over riding lesson. Don’t lie, treat people with respect and  positivity and they just might give you more money.

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Issues with Facebook

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on December 29, 2013

Every time I catch up with my young niece and nephews I ask them about their social media usage. Clearly not a robust analysis, but telling none the less. Given I see them most months it has become like a usage and attitude research program. I’m interested to understand their digital behaviour patterns, and see if they align with what the media is reporting. They are all between the age of 11 and 18 years. The question is simple: What social media are you using these days? No brands or tools are mentioned.

In the past few months Facebook has pretty much fallen off their radar. Not even used to socialise. They all told me Facebook is just good for invites and parties. But they prefer Snapchat and Instagram. In fact, over Christmas all they did all day was ‘snap’ with their friends. Ok, so this is no surprise, but what is interesting is the why. When I asked them why they care less about Facebook now the answers are quite predictable:

  • It’s too busy, with too many messages. The page on FB is all messy now.
  • It’s not as good on your mobile as ‘Insta’ and ‘Snapchat’ are. They suit it better.
  • It’s just my mates, not relatives and parents and all that.
  • It’s not cool any more.

There were more responses but you get the picture. Interestingly privacy issues have never been mentioned.

What’s clear again and again with the on-line world, is that it replicates the real world. There is no delineation. It IS the real world. But it seems that every on-line brand and social channel at some point start to forget this. Usually post market success.

I really feel that Facebook cooked their golden goose when they started to manage people’s feed and decide for them what was most relevant.  This had a really big effect on brands and organisations who had invested a significant amount in the FB platform, where overnight, their investment in connecting with those who care about their stuff was diluted. Reports say that most people see about 17% of what they actually sign up to see. But I believe it had a bigger and wider effect on individual users. It reduced the need for their members to be careful with who they said ‘yes’ to and what they ‘liked’. All of a sudden they removed the need for their users to be diligent, to manage their digital investment, to ensure their feed is up to date with who they want to hear from. And when there is no consequence, there is no investment. What Facebook tried to do with people’s feeds (keep it relevant and digestible) had the opposite effect in the long run. People lost control, didn’t manage their digital home and it turned Facebook into a crowded shopping mall. People selling stuff, lots of noise, too many options, full of strangers – people you met once at a party….  In any case cool kids don’t hang out in shopping malls, they prefer alley ways, and exclusive clubs.

In my view Facebook has become the White Pages of the web – boring and busy, but most names are there…. with a few unlisted persons. Ironically unlisted for the same privacy concerns people had with phones and addresses being public -

‘Are you Sarah Connor?’

I’m certain it will continue to be used to reach out and find people, but I feel it’s days of deep connection are over. I feel as FB will morph into an older demographic as most cool young brands do when they graduate into serious commercial entities. They always lose their cache.

FB wont disappear any time soon, but the kids on it will (have). Unlike older people using social networks, kids don’t have a commercial imperative to keep them there. They aren’t at a life stage where they are managing a personal brand, or are too scared to exit for industry knowledge reasons. They simply don’t have the exit costs many of us do with social media. I personally find LinkedIn totally annoying, spam filled and interruptive  but am yet to turn it off by not wanting to offend people or miss a random opportunity. Though I’m getting closer as each day passes.  Twitter has a broadcasting and personal quality to it given it has a one-way follow mechanism, it’s also more flexible and succinct. I truly believe it will be more highly valued company than Facebook in the long run because it more easily feeds into other media, TV, events and has a zytgeist of the times quality due to it’s immediacy.  

For me all of this is more proof that power in a digital economy is far more ephemeral than the industrial era. The barriers to entry for new competitors are low, as are the exit costs for users. It’s the mere nature of a democratised economic structure.

While this is good news for all startups, it’s also worth paying close attention to the forums we choose to build our brands in.

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The evolution of luxury

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on September 26, 2013

Like most human experiences or endeavours they live in a state of flux. They evolve. I’ve been thinking alot lately about the concept of luxury. And while luxury is a relative concept based on location, wealth, opportunity and many other factors, it seems to me as though technology is the most influential factor in its evolution. Most luxuries are temporal and may exit the fray based on technological advances or shifts in social behaviour.

The industrial revolution introduced a lot of luxuries, and invented a particularly well off middle class. Innovations which made life more comfortable would arrive and make their way down the social and economic ladder as civilization forged ahead. But as you’ll see, most luxuries have a limited lifespan with such a status. While some non-luxuries become luxuries as we evolve in other areas.

A non exhaustive list of the evolution of luxury:

  • Settlement: Becoming masters of our domain to the point where we didn’t need to be a species of nomads.
  • Excess food: Learning how to grow plants, trap & breed animals.
  • Agriculture: New efficient farming methods allowed people to exit food preparation as a way of life.
  • Piece labour: Getting paid by how efficient we became. The factory and the industrial revolution.
  • Industrialised homes: Heating, cooling, indoor kitchens, plumbing, refrigeration, washing machines.
  • Annual leave: 40 hour work weeks, salaries and paid leave from work, weekends.
  • Cars: Private motorised travel.
  • Air travel & holidays: Still being further democratised to this day.
  • Conspicuous consumption: Hello 1980′s, competing with the Joneses.
  • Fashion: Clothing beyond both needs, and functionality.
  • Premium food & widgets: Imported artisinal gelato and $100 electric toothbrushes.
  • Information: Anyone with access to the web today has more information on hand than the US President just 10 years ago.
  • Time: A core luxury today, due to humans inability to admonish the superfluous.
  • Privacy: An emerging luxury as we allow government infiltration and lack the presence of mind to think before we publish.

Of course you can think of luxuries which belong on this list, you can see how non luxuries have become luxuries as technology changes lifestyle. We can also guess some which might appear on the list in the coming years. So why am I telling you this?

It’s a realy clue into what might be important for entrepreneurs. Within the new luxury realms (physical or social) lie a number of startup ideas which will change the world and make people rich (for lack of a better word) in the process. The only question is, what might be tomorrows luxury in your community and how can you deliver it to them to make their life better? Or even better widen the distribution of something only the fortunate few currently have access to.

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Monday thought starters

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on September 9, 2013

Today I was fortunate enough to be in the company of a few global thought leaders on life hacking and inventing money. Some of the ideas that were shared I hadn’t heard before, and others I knew and forgot (Which means I didn’t really know it). In any case, what better way than to start off the week by sharing a few of them here:

  • When someone asks you how you can repay them after teaching them something of value – this is a good answer: Teach as many people as you can what I taught you.
  • Wisdom is knowledge performed.
  • ‘Do Power’ is the key not Will Power.
  • In a developed economy, the amount of people who succeed is directly proportional to the amount who give up.
  • Most people are not smarter than you / me / us, they simply do more than you / me / us.
  • With a strong enough ‘why’ humans can do the most amazing things. The ‘why’ usually fails before anything else.
  • TV can also be known as an E.I.R – or an Electronic Income Reducer. Watching lots of un-educational TV is a wealth hazard.
  • All children are successful. But as they grow older they are taught to stop trying, stop failing, stop experimenting and stop having fun. This is why learning declines with age – it is not related to the body or the brains capacity to grow with age.
  • What most marketers learn to do is ‘bottle the concept’. What they sell is often not the product but the ephemeral nature of what it represents.
  • The more you go Pfff, the more life goes Pfff.
  • We shouldn’t lead the way, we need to lead the why.
  • The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho is now the 4th most read book in history. Worth a read if you haven’t yet.

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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.

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Yesterday

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on June 26, 2013

It’s not that difficult to be an expert on yesterday. The way it was done. The story of who won and why, or even the implementation of the known formula that works (worked?). Experts on yesterday have the rational and believable viewpoint. They can support their position on that pesky little thing called evidence. Of course evidence is always historical. We tend to find experts on yesterday in senior positions in organisations and they tend to proliferate and thrive in legacy industries. Places where protecting revenue is more important than growing it.

Ironically there is no such thing as an expert on tomorrow. There can only be viewpoints on possibilities and the willingness to experiment with those possibilities. What this means, is that the ideas presented by the tomorrow guy are often met with doubt and even derision. I guess we should expect this because most of what they predict simply wont happen. Statistically the tomorrow crew will be wrong more times than they are right. But within those ten crazy ideas they present one of them is usually what eventuates. And this is the time when what works quickly becomes what worked. Just ask Kodak management.

One thing I know for sure, is that experts on yesterday rarely invent tomorrow, and in times of significant change it pays to have a couple of tomorrow guys in your corner.

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The evolution of marketing

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on June 20, 2013

I was asked by a respected colleague from the technology world this question: What is marketing? Mind you, this is a guy who is involved in, and gets marketing. As anyone who works in marketing knows, this is a difficult question to answer. But when I provided some thought on the question, I found that my answer is now longer than it used to be. Hence, I thought I would share it here.

I’ve broken it up into 3 parts. The first in order to provide a baseline definition and context.

General simplified thought: The development, distribution and promotion of products and services to suit a specific audience in order to achieve business objectives.

Unlike what many lay people believe it is neither about selling or advertising, and is much more about business management in totality. Or even more simply, marketing is a fancy word for business.

Marketing Then: The tools of marketing which flowed naturally from this were known as the 4 P’s.

  • Product – Solution
  • Price – Value equation
  • Place – Access
  • Promotion – Communication

Historically the job of the marketer has been to strategically organise the 4P’s of marketing (the marketing mix) in order to deliver a sustained commercial outcome between the brand and the audience. But it does feel like this is just not enough…. especially not when all of the factors we deal with are being disrupted via technological revolution.

Marketing Now: If we want to be a great marketer in 2013 then I feel like there is much more to it today. With the process being non-linear all the forces interact more strongly. Our interests need to be broader than that of the marketer from 1950-2000. I feel there are 4 areas we need to be interested in. And only when we are interested in these areas, will we have the intellectual arsenal to develop an effective marketing mix, regardless of which industry we are involved in.

Anthropology: A genuine interest in and study of modern day human movement and historical evolution. The ability to understand and spot patterns based on changing macro behaviour. Being able to see the movement of the collective sentience.

Technology: A solid understanding of where technology is taking us in the medium term. Not just understanding how to use what has already arrived, but knowing what is coming next. Knowing the implications of disposable technology, ambient computing and internet everywhere. Believing in this and integrating it into everything you market. In an age of exponential change there is no choice.

Finance: A solid understanding of what makes industries and the economy function. A financial brand which goes beyond COGS (Cost of goods sold) and marketing budget parameters. We need to be adept in raising capital, investing and ratio analysis…. all forms of finance are integral in what A grade marketers need to know.

Commerce: A true understanding in the art of connections. The why and how do certain parties transact with each other. How are they connecting now, and how will they connect tomorrow. It goes beyond distribution points and pricing models. It digs deep into need scopes and relative utility. It’s the real side of human interaction where commerce facilitates life goals and money is just the way we keep track of who is doing what.

A lot of this might sound meta physical, and it is. But like all forms of evolution, new layers get added – and these four elements are the layers which will define how the successful entrepreneurs and business people of tomorrow need to think.

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