Start Up Blog

How startups can benefit from the technology paradox

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on July 24, 2014

A lot of the new technology seems to do the opposite of what it ought to. A kind of paradox is emerging where the solution is so good in the short term, that it eventually eats itself. It solves the problem so well, at such a low price ,that the solution gets buried. Buried deep inside a pool of self perpetuating technology.

Omni social connectedness  –> loneliness epidemic.

Mass amounts of data –> lack of useful insight.

Dropping prices of everything we buy –> increasing debt bondage.

Worlds knowledge mere clicks away –> decline in human wisdom.

Private transport for everyone –> longer travel times.

This list could go on, but you get the picture. It seems like we should revisit the tools every now and again to make sure they’re making life better. And it is from this that the new startup opportunities arise. For every tech rush, there’s a new opportunity in fixing the part of it which is no longer working.

False Positives

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on June 5, 2014

The promise of online advertising was the ability to find an audience based on interests more that just demographic profile. An audience based on interests. This advertisement below appeared in my twitter stream which not only gave me a little chuckle, but reminded me that the web is full of false positives.

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As a reminder a false positive is a a test result which wrongly indicates that a particular condition or attribute is present.  No I am not a One Direction fan. I have never mentioned them in a tweet. But I do very often tweet about music and music videos and use such hashtags. Clearly I’ve been incorrectly identified in one of the parameters for the advertising as being a potential teenie bopper.

It reminds us to think through what the web tells as and to use our own internal analytics to tester, our brain, to see if what it is telling us is valid.

A key word is used in social media might actually mean the person doesn’t like it and the keywords were among other derogatory sentiments. The number of followers and readers we have in a social forum doesn’t necessarily mean we have that many followers of readers. It just means people clicked a button once upon a time. I have over 5000 twitter followers, but I’m certain only a small percentage of that ever see my tweets. My weekly twitter report tells me this as do the number of clicks the links I post in my tweets get (which I track). Not to mention that anyones tweets can now be muted with no one knowing.

Numbers do not necessarily equal caring. It’s also true that media organisations through the ages have used these grey areas to create massive profitability. And even though the technology is getting better at giving us a more accurate measure, there is a still a long way to go. It’s worth remembering that the actions and interactions are what matters, not the numbers.

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When receiving is better than giving

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on April 27, 2014

I’ve had a few discussions with friends lately about their social feeds. A few of them have mentioned that they don’t even read their twitter feed. That they don’t read other peoples blog posts, or tweets and they only pay attention to the attention their own content is getting. The views, the shares, the open rates, the followers, that’s what they care about. And I understand why they might do this. It’s only natural to see if we are having an impact. It’s natural to focus on the work we are delivering to the market, even if this work is content creation and curation. We’ve all heard the argument that much of the content is created by the motivated few. But in a world where content is being replaced by digital conversations I wonder if everybody is so busy talking that no one is actually listening.

What if we all did that? What if every one of us was so introspective that the only work that mattered was our own work?

If everyone is posting and creating and not reading where does that leaves us?

It leaves us in a place where the internet becomes a noisy auditorium of nothingness. There’s a reason why we have two ears and one mouth. We should listen twice as often as we speak. If attention is the asset in the modern economy we need to ask ourselves the question of how much we are giving others. Are we being generous enough with our own attention for others content? Are we respecting the gift of knowledge dissemination provided by others? I feel like this is becoming an important question in these times of data deluge.

It comes down to a simple fact which is as old as human language. If we want to be heard, then we first need pay our respects and listen first. People in our specific communities are making an effort with their thoughts and we should support it. Because the things that don’t get attention and support eventually disappear. Content is no different. We need to look at our physical make up and read 2 for every 1 we create. Answer 2 tweets for every 1 we send. Comment twice for every blog post we create.

This is one of the few times in life where it is better to receive than give.

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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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Digital Intention

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on October 23, 2013

In our omni connected era, people seem to have no qualms in telling us what they are doing and where they are. But what I’m starting to see in digital forums is people starting to tell us where they’ll be, what they are going to do, and what they intend to buy. Event organising forums, pinterest pages, wish lists, I’ll be here this Friday style tweets…. But the one that really sticks out as a massive opportunity for me is an on-line an open diary. Yes, it would require radical transparency. Yes it sounds kinda crazy and risky, but maybe fully public diaries can give back some control to the user by being removing the middle man social media marketer. A kind of open source arbitrage to fight back against the data industrial complex. Such a radical flip could give people back their power and allow self monetization.  Most users of social media are currently being sold by stealth, and sold with a large amount of guess work. Why not take it to the next level and go open source on our future locations. With an open source diary we could sell the benefits of sharing our intended activities and let traders compete for our patronage and attention.

This is a startup idea I’ve got on my radar. Would you sign up to it?

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3D printing is nothing special

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on May 30, 2013

People who read this blog and know me are aware of my obsession with 3D printing – and the fact that I think it will be bigger than the internet. Recently I had an experience with my 3D printer which was most enlightening. Before I share the story let me share a terrific definition of technology:

TechnologySomething that was invented after you were born.

So I was playing with my 3D printer in my home office when my 3 year old daughter entered the room. I asked her if she wanted me to print her something. Maybe a toy or some jewelry. She replied simple ‘Ok daddy’ and seemed pretty excited about it. Who wouldn’t be, it’s a 3D printer for crying out loud. So we picked one of the bracelets from the picture below, and sent the file to the printer. A pressed the print button and it started printing. I was pretty pumped. 3D printing my little girl some personal jewelry, immediately in my home office. I quickly said “Look, Look, it’s printing it.” To which she replied in a nonchalant manner. “Ok, thanks daddy”

Sure she was excited about the jewelry, but not the process. The process was irrelevant to her, she just wanted the thing.

3D printed bracelet

When the print job was done, I called her back in and said “Look, here it is, I printed it for you!!!”. To which her reply was much like the previous one regarding the process. She said “Thanks daddy” and then put it on her wrist and skipped away to get on with her 3 year old life.

3D printing to her is as ‘normal’ as cars, TV, airplanes, computers and microwave ovens. How can it not be, it was invented before she was born. It’s just another of the thousands of normal everyday thing she is seeing for the time. Nothing more or less special that the other technology in our lives.

But the really significant element is that by the time she is 13 years of age, yourself and every person we know will have a 3D printer. We’ll all be printing things in our homes on a daily basis. And if you think that isn’t possible, let me remind you that every social media channel you currently use today didn’t exist 10 years ago, and we already know how much that changed our social and economic landscape.

3D printing is NOW – get on it and don’t regret you let this entrepreneurial opportunity slip you by.

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Super Awesome Micro Project – Ingite Style

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on April 4, 2013

You may remember about a year ago I embarked upon a project with a kid from Romania I met on the internet. We called it the Super Awesome Micro Project. I met our CTO for the first time a few weeks ago at the WPP Stream Conference. Which is a little bit strange seeing we have been working on projects together for the best part of 18 months.  Well, we are mere weeks away from completion. So I thought I’d share an ignite talk I did on this Stranger From Romania. For the initiated, an ignite talk is a format in which you have 15 slides and 15 seconds per slide to tell a story. The slide change every 15 seconds no matter where you are up to so timing has to be perfect. The mantra for ignite talks is “Enlighten us, but do it quickly”. So here’s my super fast talking 3 minutes and 45 seconds to give you a little more detail on why meeting strangers on the internet is not always a bad thing. And a preamble for what’s coming next month. Enjoy!

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The ‘have you seen’ society

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on January 18, 2013

While the sharing of ideas on the social web has enlightened us all, it has also turned us into a ‘have you seen’ society. A society where people want to be first to know and first to show. A community of finders, fans and agents. To the point where it consumes time we could be putting into our own projects, where we could be the thing being shared. While curating the cool stuff has a value, and we all do it, there is a simple thing we should remember –  Without creation than can be no curation. And curation is always subservient to what is being created.

I can tell you from personal experience there is far more satisfaction in saying; “look what I built.”

In 2013 we should remind ourselves that the most valuable thing we can do is get out there create something.

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Smart Marketing on Pinterest

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on October 19, 2012

I love it when I see an emerging social channel used in a way that redefines what can be done. I’ve just seen Pinterest used in such a way by Australian Road Safety consort the TAC. While it’s easy to see the link between brands selling home wares, properties, holiday destinations and other ‘things’ on Pinterest, the link with road safety takes a little more human insight to find. The angle the TAC took was ‘How to plan a funeral’. In doing so they used various boards to share the ‘emotional cost’ of road trauma. I particularly like the fact that this social channel is strongly skewed to woman, who can strongly influence the men in their lives who are statistically most at risk on the roads.

Like most social channels, they can promote just about anything if we free our mind from usage in the past, and start thinking about usage in context of what we do.

I’d be interested to see if any startups have used pinterest to create a branding campaign or build a community through.

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Re-introducing boredom

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on June 21, 2012

I feel like my brain is seriously with being overloaded with data. To the point where I am becoming addicted to it. I am constantly seeking the next idea, the next great blog post, and the next piece of technology news. And now I feel like my brain needs a bit of rest. Not from sharing ideas, or continuing my projects, but during my down times. My down times have sadly becoming momentary bridges of media consumption – there is no ‘down’. Whether it is checking my tweet stream, checking into foursquare and perusing instagram, it just feels like I am bombarded with other peoples thoughts. So here’s what I am going to do.

I’m actually going to ‘re-introduce boredom’ to my life.

So instead of checking my twitter stream while I wait in line, or read in bed until my last waking moment, I’m going to give my brain a rest and let it just be. Let nothing exist.  Let my brain do what it wants, not what I want it to do (oxymoron?)… and just see what happens and where it leads me…. just be a little less demanding on my brain and see if it likes it better. Might be worth a try for all of us to avoid the overload for a while.

Love Stevie.

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