Start Up Blog

Going back to the well

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on October 29, 2014

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This year I’ve been working steadily on my new book and sharing ideas with people who want to know about the technology revolution. And while it is true we are always learning while on the job, I feel like people in the information business need an off-season as much as professional sportspeople and musicians do. Problem is we don’t tend to plan for it on an annual basis as much as other ‘seasonal industries’ do. Which could lead us into a dangerous pattern of already knowing what we know, or at worst obsolescence through ignorance. The ironic thing is that this exact behaviour pattern is what is causing large corporations to be disrupted. They are so busy doing what they do, making what they make and utilising the assets they already own that they rarely go back to the well.

If you’re an entrepreneur or freelancer (like I am) then we need to ensure we don’t get so deep into our work wormhole that we ignore the world around us. Screens and offices are very dangerous places to watch the world from. It’s probably better to make, break and explore a few things outside of our work to ensure we keep our edge.

New book – The Great Fragmentation – out now!

Five for Friday v3

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on October 3, 2014

Here’s another 5 things that are worth investing some weekend time postulating life, culture and commerce over.

1. Take the marshmallow test for grown ups. An intriguing look at an old study that was done on kids attitudes in the 1960’s.

2. Hey, just print your next car. More proof 3D printing laughs at the internet as childs play in terms of future global impact. This is the 2nd 3D printed car I’ve seen after the Urbee… Sh*t is gettin’ real.

3. Some timeless advice from 1956. Let Earl Nightingale open your mind to the secrets to happiness and success. The best advice in life does not have an expiration date. This is seminal.

4. Wanna get learned? Get your ears around the Econ talk podcast. My fav’ podcast that I’m not in…. actually I never listen to anything I ever record because that would just be weird and sycophantic.

5. The future of technology – don’t ask me, this pinterest page of a search for ‘technology’ has way more ideas. Read at your leisure…

Have a super weekend people.

Mindset & Tools

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on September 30, 2014

Digital Mindset

There’s a whole lot of tools we have at our disposal which didn’t even exist a few years ago. From a business perspective many of them present a counter intuitive option to the ‘Harvard Industrial Complex’. Yes, those established principals of what we thought we already knew about what worked in the market.

Trust the crowd to co-design our product? Are you crazy?

Get funding from future customers with out giving equity? How we going to do that?

Share revenue with content creating customers? Don’t be silly let’s keep it all for ourselves.

Co-opt with our competitors to grow the entire ecosystem? No way, let’s grow our market share instead.

Launch products with lower margin than those they’ll cannibalise? It’s uneconomic and stupid.

When the world changes, what once seemed ridiculous quickly becomes rational. Startups are now redefining what can work in a world driven by cheap and even disposable technology. It turns out having access to the new tools is not enough, we also need access to a new mindset.

New book – The Great Fragmentation – out now!

You say ‘ello’, I say goodbye

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on September 29, 2014

elli sign up page

While it is around 6 months old now, and still in beta, there has been a lot of noise about Social Networking Startup Ello. And rightly so. A decade or more deep into this social connection thing people are starting to realise, that corporations like Facebook and Twitter, are well, just corporations. They just have incredibly compelling and usable products, from which they’re motivated to deliver what all public corporations aim to do – increase shareholder wealth. Nothing new there. And while some of the founders may have had, and possibly even still have rather altruistic visions…

A more open and connected world

Change the world 140 characters at a time 

… once any company becomes public, its DNA changes somewhat, it mutates and we end up with what we’ve always had. Profit centricity. This isn’t necessarily bad, profits are good, and only companies with great (or addictive) products ever turn one. It’s more about understanding things for what they actually are, or in this case, have become.

Ello, on the other hand believes there is a better way. And I agree. You can read their manifesto here. In short they promise never to sell ‘you’. What they don’t mention is that they’ve already accepted venture capital funding as part of their growth plan. Call me a cynic, but in general people who provide funds usually want some kind of monetary return at a later date.

If any social network wants to arrive and actually be, what Ello is positioning itself as, then it can never be a for profit corporation. It also probably should never be controlled by a limited number of people, or even an organisation. It needs instead to be a gift to humanity, a bit like the World Wide Web. It needs to be open source, and uncontrolled. A bit like a language really. One thing is for sure, it can never be about a financial return on investment.

New book – The Great Fragmentation – out now!

Value transfer or value creation?

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on September 23, 2014

There are lots of ways entrepreneurs can make money. Some even have a valid legal status, but with questionable ethics. But all businesses which survive have some kind of value transfer. The real question worth asking is this:

Was there more value in total after we got involved?

If the answer to that is ‘yes’, then we’ve done much more than just make money.

New book – The Great Fragmentation – out now!

Colors, Apps and Cognitive Shortcuts

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on September 17, 2014

airbnb app icons old & new

I have my apps set up so that they will automatically update whenever I am connected to wifi. It’s pretty handy to have the latest version of something, assuming of course they make it better than the previous version.

But what I’ve noticed recently, or more aptly haven’t noticed, is that apps have a habit of changing their logo, or colour scheme. Which most often means I can’t find it, and all of a sudden I have the chance to drop the habit of using their service, or even worse finding a replacement. It’s worth remembering that the shape and the colour of an app’s logo is the cognitive shortcut we look for when we need to use it. And more often than not a logo or colour change is really only serving the people who make it and not those who actually use it. Unlike aribnb (who recently changed their logo) get front page stories when someone in their office sneezes, most app developers and curators are not so fortunate.

Just because we become bored with something we see a zillion times a day, it doesn’t mean our customers want to relearn what to look for.

New book – The Great Fragmentation – out now.

recent thoughts

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on September 16, 2014

Pollenzier logo

I’ve been publishing a few thoughts for the good people at Pollenizer – two recent articles are below:

History repeats: The seminal article written in 1960 by Theodore Levitt of the Harvard Business School called the Marketing Myopia is having a sequel. I wrote about it here and why startups are eating the lunch of many fortune 500’s.

Why we don’t have to invent the future: Sometimes it is enough just to participate and facilitate – I wrote about the feeder startup here.

In fact just yesterday I was doing a keynote for the financial services industry and I spoke about the GFD, ‘Great Finance Disruption’, which I believe is on the way given the recent developments in crowd funding, micro payments and crypto currencies. And I got asked a question about it.

And this was the question:

There are many banks in the audience, what advice can you give them to keep an eye on these trends in non traditional banking?

And here is my answer: 

It’s not about watching from a distance, it’s about getting involved, even in a small way, maybe set up a skunk works or a division for radical finance for dissident customer groups. Instead of watching it or trying to fight it, get involved and even facilitate it. It’s very difficult indeed to shape or benefit from something when you are not participating in it.

New book – The Great Fragmentation – out now.

Top 10 thoughts on independent living

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on September 5, 2014

paths to independence

I recently gave a talk at the Melbourne Entrepreneurs Club. It was full of current and aspiring entrepreneurs – so I thought I’d lay out the top 10 things I think matter if we want to lead an independent life. Read here, one where you determine your own destiny, are not reliant on a corporation to feed you, and you have enough money (that little reality checker we have in our modern market place) to serve yourself and your family. It was just 10 ideas I wrote down on a piece of paper. I didn’t write an actual speech or have any slides. I just spoke from my heart after I wrote these 10 things down. Some of the ideas I had around the 10 things I thought had value, so I wanted to share them here, but also write down the thoughts so I didn’t lose them in the ether. Here they are:

1. The word Employee: If you’ve ever wondered why you don’t like how it feels to be an employee, it’s because you were never meant to be one. In fact, employees have only existed for a tiny portion of human existence – around 0.1%. If we look at this graph, you’ll see the word was hardly even used before the Industrial era. It’s totally normal to not want to be one.

2. Boss vs the Market: In a corporation our fortune is determined by our boss. If there is a mismatch, it makes it very hard to progress. There is nothing more frustrating than having a career thwarted by a manager who isn’t supporting us regardless of the quality of our work. In fact, the entire problem is that a sample size of 1 is not very robust. It’s a far better bet to place our skills on the market – to put what we do in the hands of many and let the true value of our work be judged by quantitative sample rather than a single opinion.

3. The Consumption Cycle: Often when we get trapped inside the corporate enclave, a sense of dissatisfaction occurs. I personally believe that we seek refuge through consumption. We buy things to justify the time, effort and pain being directed by others. We enter a consumption cycle to assuage the emptiness of working openly for the pay.

4. Savings and greatness: 20th century industrialist W. Clement Stone said that if we cannot learn to save, then the seeds of greatness are not inside us. It is the ultimate test of patience and delaying gratification. But more than that it opens up the door of possibility. I’ll go one step further and give you my ultimate savings hack. If you can save 50% of your income, you only ever need to work 1 year in every 2. It really is that simple. And during that ‘off year’ who knows what we might become.

5. You’re already an entrepreneur: It doesn’t matter whether we work for ourselves, our startup or a fortune 500. You are the CEO of your own personal services corporation. If you’re an employee, then you are simply an entrepreneur with one really important and big customer. Once we make this mind flip, we do better work and realise we need to invest in ourselves and deliver for others. That’s the start of more independent living.

6. Side Project Power: Side projects often become the front projects. How we experiment with our time invents new unforeseeable and unexpected revenue streams. I now make a living doing things I used to do after work. So the real question is what are you doing from 9pm-12am? If you’re watching TV, then you’re missing the greatest informal education opportunity humanity has ever had. Right now the market pays a premium for informal knowledge because quite frankly formal education is way behind.

7. The Woodchips: Often the wood chips have more value than the table. But we only ever find this out if we endure and make the table. The side effects of what we do has value, but we need to presence of mind to look behind us and see what we have left behind. This blog was a bunch of woodchips from when I left the corporate world 10 years ago. It was the seeds for my new book. You have wood chips. We all do, locate them and see what they may become.

8. Freelance Friction Removal: I’m starting to believe that anything we can get paid for as an employee, we can do as a freelancer. The recent revolution in freelancing websites has taught us we can find people to do for us what we can’t afford to pay for 5 days a week.  Maybe we can pay them 2 days pay for 1 days effort, and result in 3 days output? The freelance friction is being removed and once the tasks are taken from the corporate HQ the time wastage also gets removed. The best advice I can give anyone trying to escape their cubicle for the first time is to start as a freelancer. From accounts payable, to marketing director – we can all do it now.

 9. A Tools Revolution: We all now have the same super powers that were once the domain of the worlds most powerful corporations. We can connect with anyone, we can access a factory without owning it, the worlds information is available and free on line, we can do e-commerce with zero cost set up, we can advertise to a specific audience with zero wastage. It’s never been easier to start a business at low cost with the gift of free tools. Go.

10. The DNA of Australians: If you’re reading this in Australia (where I live) then entrepreneurship is in your DNA. The fact that you are here, means your forefathers crossed oceans in search of a better life. They probably came with nothing but their wit. We all have entrepreneurship running deeply through our veins. Best we make those who came before us proud.

New book – The Great Fragmentation – out now.

2 unrelated questions worth asking

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on September 3, 2014

Motorcycle ride across asia

The journey we are on is often associated with some goal at the end point. But what if the end point was now? What if we took a thought experiment and pretended the journey was unnecessary? Let’s do that and ask ourselves these two seemingly unrelated questions:

  1. How would you spend your time if you had 6 months to live?
  2. How would you spend your time if you were a billionaire?

I won’t try and answer these for you, but I’m reasonably certain you’ll find two things. Many of the answers overlap, and that many of the things cost very little money. In the end we remind ourselves that the ultimate asset is time.

Ok, I couldn’t resist to give personal answer here: I know I’d want to invest more time with my family, immediate and wider, and do those projects were the business model is fun and not financial. Oh, and all those billionaires we hear about…. they’re probably off on treks riding motorcycles across China. Something which requires very few zeros in a bank account.

New book – The Great Fragmentation – out now!

What we get paid for

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on August 29, 2014

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What we actually get paid for is all the work we did yesterday, and the day before that, and the year before that. In fact, what we get paid for is the work we did when no one was watching and no one was paying.

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