Why Twitter will die if we keep saying it

No engagement on Twitter

I’ve been thinking a lot about twitter lately based on the many articles written forecasting its demise. I really hope they’re wrong, but I think they might be right. The main reason I think it will die, is because so many people are saying it. The same people who espoused it’s virtues when it arrived in 2007, are now nostalgic about a time when twitter really, really mattered. The problem with this sentiment, is that it will probably come true even if it isn’t. It’s a bit like a run on the banks. Here’s a short Sammartino definition:

A bank run happens hen a large number of a bank’s customers withdraw their deposits simultaneously due to concerns about the bank’s solvency. As more people withdraw their funds, the probability of default increases, thereby prompting more people to withdraw their deposits. The end result is the bank’s reserves may not be sufficient to cover the withdrawals.  A bank run is typically the result of panic, rather than a true insolvency on the part of the bank; however, what began as panic or opinion can turn into a true situation.

If enough people think there is no engagement on twitter, then more and more people will stop making ‘engagement deposits’ on twitter. Those who are there will get less engagement as a result. Then they’ll leave, which makes it less useful for others and before we know it we have another MySpace on our hands. It’s classic behavioural economics.

For me twitter has been valuable the past 8 years or so – I joined in Jan 2008. While it sounds kinda weird, I met a lot of my current friends through twitter, I built my personal brand there, and it became a tool for discovery and learning. It really helped me find people who cared about what I care about. It was an incredible tool, and my favourite brand for many years.

But if I were to think of one reason why I believe twitter started to stumble it would be this:

Delayed Tweets. Yes buffer, I blame you and cohort.

It’s a bit like this. All of us were at this really great party. Some of your friends were there. You met some new and interesting people. Everyone was really interested in what you were doing, and you interested in what they were doing. We helped each other, built a great eco system and it was all very give and take. But the party was so valuable and fun that no one really wanted to leave. People didn’t want to miss out on sharing a cool idea. So people started to talk more and listen less. After a while it became hard to hear and be heard. People even started sending messages when they were’t really in the room. It was like everyone put up a cardboard cut out of themselves, with interchangeable speech bubbles attached to them. The conversation turned into a noisy nightclub where no one could hear anyone speak. You’d try and have conversations with people who weren’t really there. It lost its authenticity. Slowly but surely, the value declined, and less people turned up.

Honestly, I don’t know if this is the cause, but it’s how it feels for me. If someone shared a blog post of mine it used to mean they really liked what I wrote. Now it probably means they have an IFTTT recipe set up. I’ll probably still hangout at twitter for a while yet, I might be one of the last to leave. But if there is any lessons for business people it’s this:  Twitter is classic reminder that we can never be sure of a channels long term survival. We should all be trying to build things we own and control so we have independence. We need to be our own media channel and have a place to talk to people who want to hear from us. It’s probably a portable email list. If people don’t have a reason to follow us on our own channel, then maybe our we need to create something more compelling.

You should totally read my book – The Great Fragmentation.

Entrepreneurs, it’s ok to copy

DNA

There’s a tension in our connected world about being the originator. Apparently those who invented it first always win. It is said that the best entrepreneurs are those who change things. It turns out though, those that win reinterpret that which is already here.

Here are a few examples of things that weren’t invented by who you think:

Some break dancing way before it ever appeared in the Bronx.

A graphical user interface & mouse way before Apple.

The first automobile from China in 1672, way before Carl and Henry.

So the next time you get accused of copying someone, just tell them they copied their DNA from their parents. They copied their language from their community and they should also start copying their ideas from the giants who came before them. We first must copy before we can create. Go forth and copy.

You should totally read my book – The Great Fragmentation.

The 2 simple questions all successful startups have answered

Here’s two great questions to ask when starting a business endeavour:

  1. Is there a gap in the market?
  2. Is there a market in the gap?

Question 1 is about needs being unmet or not fully satisfied. In the realm of disruptive technology, you may be able to solve customers problems a better way. The gap in the market could even live at the emotional level – $200k Hermes handbag anyone?

Question 2 is about whether we can make money filling it. Until we have real revenue and real costs, outside of a VC funding cycle the question remains unanswered. Users alone, do not a market make – just ask Fab.com. The cool thing about being small is that previously unprofitable segments for big players can now become a super efficient money spinners. Legacy infrastructure is the enemy of today.

These questions are not new, but we’ve got new tools to ask them with. We can know about the market gaps quicker, and maybe even change what they answers are.

You should totally read my book – The Great Fragmentation.

Your startup is a restaurant

Startup restaurant

Yes, your startup is pretty much a restaurant. Which means there are a few things you should know about new restaurants:

  • A domestic kitchen is different to a commercial one.
  • A successful dinner party does not translate into a successful restaurant.
  • Most restaurants can’t afford a janitor, a book keeper, advertising or…
  • A restaurant can never please all tastes.
  • You’ll need to experiment with dishes and scale.
  • Small menus work better than extensive ones.
  • The meal the customer sees is a small part of what makes it all work.
  • The margins are always smaller than you expect.
  • Working hours always exceed opening or revenue generating hours.
  • Customers can be wrong, but we need to look after regulars.
  • Regulars come back for the consistency or experience.
  • Customer perception from the outside determines if they’ll come in the door.
  • Recommendation from friends matters more than anything.
  • There is no chance of annual leave until customers will really miss you.
  • If you want to be successful enough to go big, you can’t run the kitchen.
  • 95% of new restaurants close within the first year.
  • 99% of new restaurants close within three years.

Sounds a bit difficult, with a low probability of success. Doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try. It does mean you should know it might be one of many tries to get one that works.

A learning curve only happens when you are prepared to push up hill.

You should totally read my book – The Great Fragmentation.

The simple truth about Virtual & Augmented Reality

Tony Stark Augmented Reality

There’s no doubt these two technologies will start to intersect our lives and therefore business. Startups and big tech co’s are manoeuvring to find ways to plug the technology into how we work, live and entertain ourselves. But Virtual and Augmented Reality sound more complex for a consumer perspective than they really are. Here’s how I like to think about these two technologies to simplify how they can be used.

Virtual Reality: Takes me to places where I am not.

Augmented Reality: Helps me understand and interact in ways I cannot.

They help us do more than we can on our own. Virtual helps us escape and hide. Augmented helps us interact and create more efficiently. Neither is about replacing us.

Virtual Reality isn’t that much different to TV –  taking us to another place, it’s just far more immersive. We could even compare it to a novel or a movie – it’s just that more senses are involved.

Augmented Reality could be compared to signs and instruction manuals. Our smart phone is also used this way, like when we use google maps. Augmented reality is about telling us more about our immediate environment than we could guess on our own. But it can be far more personal, immediate and immersive.

Sometimes the best way to understand new technologies is to compare it to technology we already understand and use. It is very rare indeed for new technology to be more than an evolution of what we already have.

I really think you’ll like my book – The Great Fragmentation.

Why burning the boats is terrible advice

Burning the boats at the shore

You’ve heard the story about burning the boats right? Legend has it that the Spanish conquistador Hernan Cortes told his 600 men to ‘Burn the boats’ when they arrived in Mexico in 1519. He wanted to ensure his men had no option but to succeed in plundering the riches of the Aztec empire.

Here’s the thing – Hernan was kind of like Google or Apple with an incredible amount of resources at his disposal. And us? Well, we are not Hernan. We are probably living a comfortable existence in a developed country. We would probably not die for startup success. We, in the modern world should probably be smart enough to ignore this advice.

Personally, I’ve had a lot of startups, more than ten. I’ve also had a lot of projects. The large majority have failed in financially. I’ve had two startups in which I succeeded in selling the business. I never burned the boats once. I always had some boats hidden away under the bushes by the shore for a quick and painless escape. Once I even joined another army (went back into a corporate role). I always had some form of investment to fall back on, safety cash, shares and housing. I even continued to make passive investments while I was bootstrapping my startups. And it is this reason alone I could keep on playing the game. I could keep going back into another startup and try again. I’ve got friends and colleagues who went all in, and now have very little to fall back on. Sure, we all approach things in different ways, but for me startups are an infinite game that I want to keep playing, therefore, I always keep a few boats by the shore.

See the amazing reviews of my book – The Great Fragmentation.

Why I already trust you

lost of faces

People often talk about earning someones trust. Which is a bit like saying, I think you’re a jerk until you prove otherwise. My approach is the opposite. I trust you from the outset. The moment we meet you have my trust. Occasionally this means I get burnt. Probably around 5% of the time, it turns out to be a bad policy. Which then gives you a clear indication of why I choose to trust first. Most humans are good, and will honour the trust given to them. Which means that 95% of the time it works out well.

The problem is that most companies make policies to account for the 5% of bad apples. The few that take advantage of things. They punish the majority to account for minority. A better option is to have a business model with the robustness to account for those we who do the wrong thing. By doing this we respect the humanity of our most important customers, the majority. They also happen to be the trustworthy ones.

You should totally read my book – The Great Fragmentation.