Yes, the robots will take your job, but…

Bison Hunter

…there are not that many bison hunters any more.

This is a very short way of saying that all jobs eventually get replaced by technology. Technology will take the role of many white collar jobs, just like machines have taken away many blue collar jobs, just like the plough took away many farming jobs. Technological Unemployment will always be a fixture in human existence – and always has been. It just so happens that it doesn’t sell newspapers (or provide click bait) to tell the truth that new jobs will be created. But it seems like a week doesn’t go past without a new report flagging the end of millions of jobs. So here’s a counter mind jam of some new jobs recently created that no one is writing economic reports on:

UX Designer, App developer, Drone Pilot, Crowd Funding Advisor, Smart Phone Game Developer, Blogger, Podcaster, Social Media Specialist, Wikipedia Moderator, Content Curator, Community Manager, Uber Driver, Airbnb Host, Web Videographer, Youtube Content Creator, Vine Artist, e-Book Publisher, Bitcoin Trader, Bitcoin Miner, E-Commerce Consultant, SEO Specialist, Genetics Counsellor, Sustainability Advisor, Citizen Journalist, MOOCs tutor, Big Data Analyst, Cloud Services Specialist…

And this list is just small sample set from my perspective. I’m sure your industry or worldview could make the list much larger. In fact, there are currently more than 500,000 app developers in the USA alone. A job that didn’t exist pre smart phone.

A simple economic fact is that if a person has $100 in their wallet, it still gets spent. In 1995 $10 of that $100 might have went into getting filmed developed. Now it goes elsewhere, maybe towards the cost of a smart phone monthly fee. The money always gets spent, saved or invested. The allocation just changes. And so do the jobs around those expenditure allocations. If you want to be future proof, I suggest you pay close attention to what your friends are spending their time and money on. It’s always where tomorrows jobs and startup opportunities lie.

The crazy thing about all those ‘new jobs’ above is this: They are all learnable, and mostly for free. All you need is these two assets: (1) The ability to read. (2) A connection to the internet (I’m guessing you have these). But yes, they all take effort. And no, the Government or your Boss won’t save you, or pay you to learn any of them. No one can do your push ups for you. But if you’ll make the effort, the rewards are there. The new jobs, and more importantly ‘business opportunities’ around them are ripe in these realms and they often pay more than job X did yesterday. Guess who earns more: A small screen UX Designer, or a Graphic Designer doing page layouts for a print magazine? Same realm, but a different iteration and attitude to learning. It’s really just a choice between taking advantage of the opportunities, or wishing the world was like yesterday.

Yes, the pace of change is scary. Yes, things are changing at a rapid pace, but it’s never been more possible to up-skill, re-skill or new-skill in the history of humanity. So next time you read a report on the impending doom of your industry, job or financial future, just remember that it is your decision on how it will affect you.

New Book – The Great Fragmentation – out now.

Twitter vs Facebook vs Linkedin – is the medium still the message?

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The medium is the message, first coined by Marshall McLuhan has been a staple belief in the world of advertising and communications for a very long period. During the heady days of Mass Media, being seen on TV itself was beacon of success. Products on the shelf would proudly beam ‘As seen on TV’ on their packaging. For only those who sold a lot of their product could afford it, or was it that if you were on it, you’d sell a lot of product? Regardless, the channel a brand appeared in said a lot about its place in the commercial world.

While, it feels like the now infinite number of media channels might make this maxim less true, I’m certain it still applies to a large extent. Ofttimes the context shapes the content.

As far as this blog goes there are some clear patterns. If you’re a regular reader you’ll notice that I have only 3 social sharing buttons at the bottom of a post. One for Twitter, one for Facebook and one for Linkedin. I ditched Google+ because it was just too embarrassing have a share button with no shares. Here’s what I noticed with the sharing of my posts:

Twitter – always gets more shares if the post is tech, startup heavy, recent news commentary or political in nature.

LinkedIn – always gets more shares if it’s about escaping a corporate position, about becoming an entrepreneur, industry disruption, human motivation, selling and horrible bosses.

Facebook – always gets more shares if it’s about personal finance, goal setting, hope, criticism and social issues. Yet, I’m connected to the same people in all these channels.

My takeout of all this? For startups or any business using social forums trying to reach an audience, it is far less about the demographic and for more about the ideology and topic of the particular post. The interest graph is far stronger than the social graph. Now the only question on my mind is what category does this post fall into?

New Book – The Great Fragmentation – out now.

One thing in tech every business or entrepreneur with global ambitions should remember

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While only 39% of the global population currently have access to the internet, 73% of the global population (5.2b people) are already mobile phone users.

This means that the majority of the adult population will never use a desktop computer. They may never use a laptop. And that their world will inevitably be a small screen, wireless one. With the law of accelerating returns on our side, we must assume that within probably 2 years, all of these phones will become smart phones, and the number of people with them over 90% of the population. Already, many mobile subscribers are still yet to have access to running water, indoor plumbing and other technologies we’d falsely assume ought to come first. The order of things in the past, is not always the order of things in the future.

If there was ever a case for a business strategy which is So Lo Mo Me…

Social / Local / Mobile /  Me (as in the end user)

… then that time is now. Add to this the change of the Google search algorithm to mobile friendly and the pattern is clear. The small screen rules, even if it seems to be growing!

If the aim in business is to go global, it’s more important than ever to be mobile oriented, as the developing markets we seek to enter know of no alternative. Mobile is not only first, it is the only. If you want to see the state of the internet which includes these stats and more, I can’t recommend highly enough the annual state of the internet report by Mary Meeker – here.

New Book – The Great Fragmentation – out now.

You don’t need an investor

Venture Capitalist

Yesterday I got an email from Sam Birmingham from Pollenizer, and it’s message was so compelling, I had to share it here:

It is something we hear all too often… “I was wondering if you could help me find an investor?”

You don’t need an investor. You need customers.

You don’t need an investor. You need to prove that you are developing a sustainable business model.

You don’t need an investor. You need to focus on learning as much as you can with the finite resources at your disposal.

Sometimes having limited time / money / people can be an advantage. Do the best you can with what you’ve got. Stop making and start answering the most important question in entrepreneurship – what comes next? 

For more startup goodness be sure to check out the Pollenizer blog. 

New Book – The Great Fragmentation – out now.

How toilet paper weirdly tells a story of industrial disruption

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If you’ve been wondering recently why you use so much toilet paper. Why it seems every year you’re buying more rolls than ever before. Wonder no more. As a bonus you’ll also find out with a weird example how so many industrial companies sow the seeds of their own disruption.

The first every job I held with a big company after graduating was with Kimberly Clark. An American multinational paper goods manufacturer. A big brand of theirs is Kleenex. The market leading toilet paper which we now buy giant packs of up to 24 rolls. But it wasn’t always this way. When I started working there more than 20 years ago the best selling package size of toilet paper was a 4 pack. Did we all of a sudden start going to the toilet more frequently to require more toilet paper? If not, then how is it that most families could survive on a 4 or 6 roll pack from the weekly shop and now we need to purchase to a 24 roll pack?

Here’s how:

When I started working at Kimberly Clark most toilet rolls had between 300 and 500 sheets (paper squares) per roll. Some brands had up to 1000 sheets per roll. But what I discovered as a few years went by is that instead of raising the price, the company would simply remove 10 or 20 sheets per year. They did this as they believed that consumers are more sensitive about price than quantity. It’s a popular fast moving consumer goods ‘pricing‘ tactic to maintain profitability without changing the selling price. Kleenex Cottonelle is now down to 180 sheets per roll. In addition to this Kleenex Cottonelle is 1 ply, and the Kleenex brand it replaced was 2 ply. Some toilet papers are down to 100 sheets per roll. They even increase the size of the core of the roll to keep the same perceived roll width. So there is your answer. Each roll we buy these days has far less paper on it. Often by a factors of 4, 6 and even 10. This is why we need to buy packs which are 4x times the size. But the paper companies got what they wanted, they kept their prices per roll roughly the same.

But this goes deeper than a story of bathroom anthropology. It tells the story of how many large legacy companies are coming undone. It’s a story of their industrial mindset. And that mindset is as follows: They’d rather give their customers less for the same price than be transparent. In fact, it’s exactly what industrialists do, they want to get more for less, every single year. But in a strange kind of reversal, they end up costing themselves more and giving themselves less. Their cost per roll in distribution, and packaging goes up. And their cost per tonne of what they sell in retail margins increases. And it is of course a race to the bottom. A brand can only cut product delivery so far until the product is no longer. It also creates a worse product experience for the end consumer. I know I don’t want to carry home toilet paper packs four times the size in my trolly or buy it 4 times as frequently.

Above all of that, it shows where the focus is for these companies: On selling stuff they already sell, as cheaply as possible, using the machines they’ve already got, with a short term focus. At no point is the end user considered, or part of a strategy which doesn’t involve trickery. They have a mindset of scarcity, not abundance. On the flip side we have many startups and technology companies focused on giving more for less, and creating platforms for consumer creation and collaboration. It’s no wonder half of the the Fortune 500 lost their invitations to the party in the past 10 years.

New Book – The Great Fragmentation – out now.

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.

How the technology works is irrelevant

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There are very few people in the world who know how the thing in the picture above actually works. Yet, there are also very few people in the developed world who have not been a major beneficiary, and even a driver of this complex technology. There is not generally a fear of the technology that makes cars do what they do. Instead we embrace the benefits they deliver and use them in every way we can. They changed where we live, how we travel, our leisure patterns, the structure of living spaces and cities, they changed the world more than anything that came before them. They totally transformed our culture.

And it is happening again. A new set of tech tools are providing both fear and opportunity. I wasn’t around when cars became common place, but I imagine there was as much fear of the unknown then, as there is now. There was probably talk of jobs evaporating and the end of economics as we know it. And yet, it was the bellwhether for the greatest period of prosperity in human history. While it’s impossible to know how most anything works these days (division of labour), it’s very easy get behind the power technology provides to win in business. In fact, it’s probably easier to win because fear of the technology is holding so many people back. We don’t need to know how something works, we just need to know that it does. And once we embrace that fact, it will reshape our perspective and quite possibly our fortune.