Start Up Blog

What is possible?

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on April 11, 2012

Every now and again we are forced to re-consider what is possible. Maybe it is due to some form of technology advancement. Maybe it is due to a new scientific discovery. And sometimes it is due to a single person pushing themselves to the limit, and in doing so pushing human possibilities to levels that had previously been considered impossible.

Kelly Slater is a person who has consistently been doing this for 20 years. In fact, I regard him as the greatest sports person of all sports of all time. Anyone who disagrees with this has simply failed to consider what he has done over this period. He has dominated, and reinvented the sport again and again. To the point where we has been world champion 11 times over 20 years and is still competing against and beating surfers who were not even born when he won his first world title. At the age of 40 he is still setting the bench mark. His dominance of the sport is almost embarrassing for other competitors.

He did something amazing this week in the Bells Beach Ripcurl Pro. In fact it is the best manouvre ever seen in competitive  surfing. A full 360 aerial rotation – no hands. You can see it below. Just 30 years ago surfing magazines were full of discussions as to whether a simple 360 turn on the wave face was physically possible. And while every year, we think our sport has reached its limit it manages to forge into uncharted territory.

We should use this as motivation and a reminder of what we ourselves can do. That we are never too old and that the only limits that matter are the ones that we set for ourselves.

Enjoy this visual orgy of surfing goodness.

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Innovation never ends

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on July 13, 2011

I happened upon this video (being a surfer and all) and was totally inspired by the product innovation. In real terms it is innovation at its core:

Problem – Solution.

They had to find and invent the technology to solve the problem. Rather than having some technology they were trying to find a use for. The video is worth watching, as the lesson is one any and everyone can take heed from.

It also reminds me that innovation will never end. Just when we thought the wetsuit solved all the problems it could (cold water / sunburn, wax rash) a human need takes it to the next level. Just like Bucky said: eventually we’ll be able to create everything from nothing.

Big props goes out to Billabong. If I was running Ripcurl, or a surfing startup, I’d be working on a wetsuit with an oxygen pouch!

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Andy Irons – life is short

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on November 3, 2010

As a surfer, today I was devastated to learn that former world surfing champion Andy Irons died. He was 32.

It’s a poignant reminder that waiting is for fools. Andy only had 32 short years, but managed to surf the world and be the best at what he did.

But the key question here isn’t about whether you are, or ever will be the best. Rather, it’s about knowing if what you are spending your days doing is what you actually would dream about being the best at.

Start now.

Great bootstrapping

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on April 19, 2010

This Nutrigrain commercial isn’t really about cereal. It’s a message for Entrepreneurs. Take a look.

Notice how he didn’t let his environment (non coastal) hold him back?

Notice the tools he built to train himself and replicate his desired future?

Notice, the time invested in his dream, the years of dedication?

He wasn’t concerned about the resources he didn’t have, rather those he could use to bootstrap his training. It’s an attitude that all entrepreneurs should have.

Best we take a second look.

Shifting advantage & contrarian actions

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on January 26, 2009

Once upon a time savvy surfers would get down to the beach early. It was the way to get smooth, uncrowded waves. To step into the ocean at dawn and share the tranquil waters with a few other dedicated salty skin brethren.

This was such an advantage that more and more surfers adopted this method of soul (and sole) surfing. Until the point arrived when there were more people in the line up before there was any daylight. You could often arrive at your favourite surf break only to find the largest crowd of the day was between 5am and 8am. It got ridiculous, the crowd had caught on.  There is now zero advantage in getting up early to go surfing.

crowded-surf1

I got so annoyed with the crowds, that I decided to sleep in on surfing days regardless. Why get to the beach early and be greeted with the largest surfing population the day has to offer? It wasn’t worth the effort. So I started heading down the coast at either 10am or 2pm. I still avoided midday, but shifted my surfing times to mid morning and afternoon.

Next thing I found was that my ‘contrarian’ actions had resulted in a boon. Uncrowded waves and a sleep in! Turns out most people rarely surf for more than a couple of hours. So even the early morning laggards start to exit the water mid morning.  My current example, was two days ago: I went surfing in a very popular location near Torquay, in 37 degree c warm weather, had perfect waves and only one other person in the water at 2pm. No surfer would believe this is happening.

uncrowded-surfing

The point for entrepreneurs is; Like the waves, positioning advantage is constantly shifting. What is an advantage this year, will certainly change next year. But we will never know this if we always accept conventional wisdom of ‘where to be and when’.

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Arrogance = your opportunity

I bought this reasonably cool pair of board shorts for surfing this summer.

boardshorts

They cost me a whopping $80. Which is what I call ‘insult pricing’. It’s a pretty simple equation actually. The key players in the surfwear industry (Billabong, Quiksilver and Ripcurl) charge these prices because they can. They don’t have any ‘credible competitors’ in this board short subsegment of clothing.

In recent years surf brands have been hit by many competitors in other areas of the market which they used to ‘own’. Especially in t-shirts, from the myriad of streetwear companies, to the uber cool on-line players like Neighborhoodies and Threadless. Interestingly the shorts in this photo would cost >$5 to make. There is significant margin in the product. Such high margins often begets competitive entry into the market place.

The arrogance of said surf brands has invented an opportunity for a nimble entrepreneur to steal part of this market. And the way to do it is exactly the way Threadless have. Go online and build a community to design the uber cool boardshorts / shorts and sell them globally at a fair price. In fact, surf wear is so clichéd and over branded these days that I avoid wearing it. Most of the designs are very rank and have really lost their edge. I only use surf brands for surf equipment. The only reason I bought the pair in the photo is ‘lack of options’.

If anyone knows some one already doing it – let me know
If anyone wants to do it – let me know as well. I think it’s worth ‘investing in’.

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Opportunities

It’s oft said that opportunities in business arrive once we start looking. And startup blog agrees. It’s not really about opportunity though, it’s more about perceptive sentience, general awareness, and curiosity.

Today in Melbourne some opportunists scored big time. The weather savvy surfers got to surf in Port Phillip Bay which is usually as flat as a mill pond. For today we had weather which was as stormy as it has been it in many years…. (like the current share market?)  Maybe, just maybe stormy enough for ridable surfing waves to form on the City doorstep.

storm-surfing5

Ok so it wasn’t classic surfing conditions but the waves where there (revenue ?) for those with the aforementioned qualities (perceptive sentience, general awareness, curiosity) to find.

Most surfers who live in Melbourne, which is a 75 minute drive from the closest surfing location, probably just rugged up with a hot cup of cocoa and forget about surfing in the terrible conditions (market downturn?). Well they missed out. While they didn’t seek opportunity others got a special treat and rode the fun, albeit bumpy waves.

Tomorrow, the waves will be gone.

The surfers out there today are like the kind of entrepreneurs I like to hang out with. People with a curiosity to investigate new situations. To imagine that the current conditions might present new and different opportunities. (They had to consider the wind, imagine the waves may be breaking, drive over and check it out) The type of people who have their resources (surfboard & wetsuit) on hand when chances pop up. People who don’t care that others may laugh at them surfing crappy waves in semi-polluted waters. The type of people who not only win, but have a ball doing it.

See more of these shots of the surfers here on my Twitpic page.

Steve – rentoid.com

Are you into it?

I’m sure there are examples of people who’ve been successful by simply being good at what they do. But there are more examples of world beaters who are ‘into’ what they do.

I’m into this blog. I love writing it. I did it with as much enthusiasm when 10 people read it each month as I do now when more than 20,000 do.

Some of my favourite entrepreneurs are really into what they do.

Branson loves music & flying.

Trump loves real estate & the deal

Steve Jobs is really into design & aesthetics

Lindsay Fox loves trucks and cars (he even has ‘truck driver’ as the title on his business card!)

Doug Warbrick loves surfing….

Doug and his surfing partner Brian started Ripcurl, the surfing company. They started making surfboards in the late 1960’s and shortly after made some the first surfing wetsuits the world has seen. In fact their first wetsuit was made from a rubber carpet underlay they pulled up from a floor with an old pre world war 2 sewing machine – great bootstrapping. He made the wetsuits so he could endure the harsh Victorian winter and enjoy the best waves of the year down there.

They just kept making really good surfing equipment. Which they also sold, 40 years on Ripcurl is now one of the three dominant companies in the Industry, valued at well over $500 million.

Ripcurl founders & store circa 1970, followed by curent retail outlet

Are you into your job, business or startup, or just passing the days?

The best innovations no less ‘ entrepreneurial success’ comes from people who are really into what they do.

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