The first question early stage startups should ask themselves

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When we being our journey into a new startup we get excited by the possibilities of what we are about to build. Especially when it comes to raising capital to support the project. But in the moment there’s one question we should not forget to ask ourselves:

Is this a technology push or a problem pull?

The answer to this question changes the direction of the entire project. It changes who will care about what we are building. If making money is the objective, it makes more sense to be in the problem pull space. If you want to change the world, Peter Thiel or Peter Diamandis style, then it pays to be in the technology push arena. Both can become commercial success stories, and one isn’t superior to other, it just depends on what we are chasing – it’s really about the ‘Why?’ The thing that really matters is not confusing which of the two our startup plays in and ensuring our expectations match the funding, timeline and outcome realities.

New Book – The Great Fragmentation – out now.

Learn why data matters with one simple photo

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If I was to ask you what the kids in the above picture were doing – beyond burying their faces in their smart phones, there is an almost infinite number of possible answers:

Messaging a friend, Face-timing their mum, Commenting on a blog, Snapchatting, Booking a flight, Submitting their homework, Buying a pair of sneakers, Updating their FB status, Getting directions, Sending a friend some money, Finding a cafe for lunch…. they might even be talking to directly to each other. The point is we don’t know. We can’t know by observing behaviour from the outside. Instead we need to get inside the data to find out what is actually going on.

This is a big shift in marketing and business in general. We can’t simply observe, we can’t just ask, we’ve got to mine. And while this movement might have started with the smart phone, we’re now entering an era of general purpose machinery and computing. End products which change their purpose based on who is using the technology. Malleable products like 3D printers and self drive cars will mean the only way to know what’s really going on is to match usage and observation with data. Increasingly this will need to involve collaboration, and the effective way to do that won’t be just taking the data without asking, or tricking people with hidden terms and conditions, but collaborating with it. In order to do this we need to develop a trusted relationship where we share the marketing process with our users just as if they are part of our internal team. If we do this, we can bake a bigger revenue pie where we all get a piece.

New Book – The Great Fragmentation – out now. 

The global content playbook & how the internet actually works

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I’m a big fan of the John Oliver show Last Week Tonight. Which, in an unconnected web world I wouldn’t even know about as it has never been shown in Australia. But through the wonder of sharing great content online I became a big fan. The show airs in the USA on Sunday nights, and in their wisdom, HBO would publish much of the shows content on Youtube a day later. I’d eagerly await to watch it here on Monday night in Australia through the Last Week Tonight Youtube channel. At last, a media company that gets it. A media company that understands the value of building connection and fan bases globally in real time. They even made it available to non subscribers – wow.

That was until this week. For some reason, most likely the HBO launch in Australia or some other licensing arrangement in Australia with Stan, Presto or Netflix, I now get the classic picture above: Sorry, This content is not available in your region.


This content is available in my region, they simply made a decision to give up their direct relationship with me, and forced me to get it elsewhere. Now they won’t share any of the potential advertising revenue or other prizes which come from direct customer relationships. Weirdly, much of it is ‘still’ available on youtube channels where others have uploaded it. The back door has been opened. And it’s licensing deal structures born of the late 1970’s cable TV era that create this back door leakage.

More than 20 years into this thing, here’s a simple lesson every media company should already know: Once it is released anywhere digitally, it is released everywhere digitally. The desires of the content owners to limit distribution are irrelevant. Given this is the new truth, a better strategy might be to just embrace it.

New Book – The Great Fragmentation – out now. 

Something I told every staff member I ever had & you should too

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I spent a large part of my career working for large corporations in the Fast Moving Consumer Goods world – think Fortune 500. When I finally arrived at the level of managing people directly, one of the first things I would tell them is this:

“The company we work for does not care about us. They don’t care about me, and they don’t care about you. I’ll try and help you, as a person in your career. If that means that you need to work elsewhere, I’ll help you get there, to a better place. If that means that I need to be more loyal to you, than the company we work for, I’ll do that too. In the end companies will come and go, we’ll be inside one for a period, and then we won’t. And the company won’t care once we’re gone, it’ll be as if we never existed. The thing that really matters, while we are here working for this company, is each other. Our relationships will last through and beyond the companies we go through, so let’s look after each other first. And if we do this, the companies we work for will be the ultimate beneficiaries anyway.”

This sounds counterintuitive, maybe even disloyal, but in my experience it’s the starting point of true loyalty and better outcomes in any size business or project. Sometimes it’s worth knowing what really matters as we play this ‘unreal’ game of economics.

New Book – The Great Fragmentation – out now. 

You were born to pitch

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Pitching is one of those things that some of us love and and some of us hate. But, we all know it is a necessary part of startups and economic life in general. Here’s something many people don’t know – everyone is good at pitching, everyone is doing it everyday, and in fact, it was the very first thing we did the moment we were born. Yep, the first thing you did as a human being was pitch. Here’s how it went:

You were born into the world scared and alone as you exited the womb. You desperately wanted to stay alive, and immediately went into pitch mode. You cried for your mother to hold you, cuddle and warm you, to provide your first taste of breast milk. You put on your most adorable sad face, and used the only assets you had at your disposal – facial expressions and noise. You didn’t even have any words, but you made an immediate connection through passion and fear and hope – you connected. And it worked – you are here.

It goes further than that. You probably pitched a few times already today – proposing what to have for dinner, which movie to watch with your partner, or what to do on the weekend. You may have pitched to a work colleague on which place to get a coffee in the morning or what time to go and why. Proposing ideas, suggesting activities, it’s all a manner of pitching. And once we start to pay attention to the fact we are constantly pitching, then we can start to understand our own technique and bring it into the more formal circumstances. The best type of pitching we can do, is to bring our casual daily approach – the same approach that helped us survive in life up until now – into our business life. We need to take our natural style into those formal pitch moments. When we do this we become more endearing, believable and affable. The trick is that we need to be our natural selves. We need to embrace our natural style and personality – that same one that helped you make friends.

If you want to learn to pitch, then the best thing you can do is pay attention to the pitches you’re already doing. Take note of yourself and then take your existing informal method  to places where it matters formally. You’re already a gun pitcher, you just need bring your subconscious behaviour to a conscious level.

Soundbites full of goodness

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Yesterday I met a fellow called Joseph Gagnon. We were both doing a talk at the same gathering. Before either of us went up on stage we really connected philosophically. You know, that echo chamber of existing beliefs the world is quickly becoming…. well, this was one of those moments. So, when he told his story I scribbled a heap of his soundbites down, knowing they’d be enjoyed on this blog too. He also stimulated some of my own thoughts which I’ve mashed in among these. There’s no particular order, other than the order of goodness they deliver. Enjoy.

– How do you know if someone really cares about you? Here’s two things they often do: (1) Think about you when you are not there. (2) They help you before they help themselves.

– Things just work today. Complete functionality is just a cost of entry. How things connect is far more important, even with cars. We no longer look under the bonnet, but we look for connectivity.

– Why is texting and Instant Messaging so powerful? It’s both synchronous and asynchronous. It’s developing it’s own dialect of which we are the authors. It blends immediacy and even emotions :-). It’s verbal, auditory, visual and pithy…. and yet it can say so much so very quickly.

– While we all aim to sell something, the number of people who actually use it is far more important than the number of people just buying it.

– The role of the teacher is changing, but has to change more. It’s not about instruction or even facilitation. It’s really about dream making. If they don’t help with that, then why bother learning what they are teaching?

– Voice mail is dying. People don’t want to leave them, and people don’t want to retrieve them. While you’d think a voice recording is superior to an IM, our humanity senses the moment is less authentic and there’s a mismatch between the dialect and the delivery tool.

– The moment customers are after is a moment when the only response they can give a company is, “Wow, I can do that?” This is a moment most front line staff and CEO’s know how to deliver, but don’t have the authority or the courage to make happen. Fear is the main driving corporate emotion. The fear response is: It might not scale, it might have a short term cost impact.

– When presenting our personal stories are more powerful than those of some external success story. We know that matter to us more. And our experience is probably more like theirs. The probability of connection and inspiration transfer is far higher.

New Book – The Great Fragmentation – out now. 

Welcome to the culture of Extremistan

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Famed author and modern day renaissance man Nassim Taleb talks about Extremistan. While his analysis refers to black swan events, randomness and outliers in the economic world, it seems as though pop culture is on a similar trajectory.

Tattoos used to be an extreme thing in themselves. Now real tattoo people have to differentiate through full body cover and face tattoos. Extreme Sports used to mean things beyond golf, football and athletics like motocross. Now they look more like base jumping, jetpack flying and cave diving. Game Shows used to be about trivia and family fun guessing answers to win cars. Now they involve near death experiences on tropical islands to win millions of dollars and potential reality stardom. Travel Stories used to be interesting enough when someone visited far flung Asia or eastern Europe. Now hardcore globe trotters visit Afghanistan and Honduras to ensure their story gathers more kudos.

I’m sure you can think of another zillion examples of the progression towards our culture of extremistan. It is a clear reminder we are in a world which is so connected and immediate that most things have already been seen and done. What used to be unusual is just the new normal. There’s very little scarcity when it comes to ‘things and activities’. And because one of the only things that is scarce these days is attention, many people are literally risking their lives to get it. This tells us much about the human condition. We crave attention. But attention is really just a proxy for something much more human. We want to be recognised and acknowledged, and maybe deep down we just want to feel loved.

What an opportunity. To pay attention to everyone, and not just those who will go to the extreme to get it. Genuinely caring about people and making them feel your love might be the best low cost strategy we can find these days.

New Book – The Great Fragmentation – out now!