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If The Shoe Fits: Growth At All Costs — Unsustainable AND Unethical

Friday, March 24th, 2017

A Friday series exploring Startups and the people who make them go. Read all If the Shoe Fits posts here.

This is a short post, aside from the quotes, and I honestly don’t care if you skip my part and just read the  main links, especially the last on from DHH.

5726760809_bf0bf0f558_mIt’s exactly two years since I saw a successful lifestyle business founder, Andrew Wilkinson of MetaLab and Flow, loudly and publicly say that he would rather be a horse than a unicorn.

Meaning, he would rather build his businesses organically and self-funded than take outside investment.

I wondered if his attitude was a harbinger of returning sanity.

Ha! Wilkinson’s attitude was an outlier, as opposed to a trend.

However, early as he was I see more successful founders following a similar path.

A few days ago I read a Medium post from Mara Zepeda, Co-founder and CEO of Switchboard, and Jennifer Brandel Co-founder and CEO of Hearken, coining a new term, zebra, to denote a sustainable approach to growth.

A year ago we wrote “Sex & Startups.” The premise was this: The current technology and venture capital structure is broken. It rewards quantity over quality, consumption over creation, quick exits over sustainable growth, and shareholder profit over shared prosperity. It chases after “unicorn” companies bent on “disruption” rather than supporting businesses that repair, cultivate, and connect. After publishing the essay, we heard from hundreds of founders, investors, and advocates who agreed: “We cannot win at this game.”

Adam Eskin, founder and CEO of expanding restaurant chain Dig Inn and a former private equity associate at Wexford Capital puts it this way,

“Having a background in private equity, we don’t just want to grow this business for growth’s sake, lose passion for what we do, or the reasons why we’re here. I think that’s what some folks can end up doing when they raise this kind of capital.”

As a tech person, who has been seduced into believing that valuation is everything, why should you listen to an outlier or non-tech founder, let alone a couple of women?

Perhaps you’ll be more inclined to listening to the guy whose tech generates raves and may even be the source code of your company.

DHH (David Heinemeier Hansson), creator of Ruby on Rails, Founder & CTO at Basecamp (formerly 37signals), writer of best-selling books and winning LeMans racecar driver.

There is no higher God in Silicon Valley than growth. No sacrifice too big for its craving altar. As long as you keep your curve exponential, all your sins will be forgotten at the exit. (…)  The solution isn’t simple, but we’re in dire need of a strong counter culture, some mass infusion of the 1960s spirit. To offer realistic, ethical alternatives to the exponential growth logic. Ones that’ll benefit not just a gilded few, but all of us. The future literally depends on it.

Image credit: HikingArtist

 

If The Shoe Fits: Channel Nintendo

Friday, March 10th, 2017

A Friday series exploring Startups and the people who make them go. Read all If the Shoe Fits posts here.

5726760809_bf0bf0f558_mLast week we looked at what companies are doing about product security — which is little-to-nothing in most cases.

Unlike Nintendo.

Nintendo’s new Switch console — think Zelda — is making news, but its unique security effort should be in the limelight, too.

Unlike Tide, Nintendo realized the console’s tiny, SD-sized game cartridges would be irresistible to kids — so its designers came up with the perfect solution.

They didn’t wait for a curious kid (and the resulting lawsuit) to choke or even die from swallowing one, before addressing it.

They thought it through and spent the needed time and money to assure that kids wouldn’t eat the cartridges in the first place.

And they succeeded.

The cartridges are coated with something that makes them taste terrible.

Terrible as in spitting them out.

To avoid the possibility of accidental ingestion, keep the game card away from young children,” a Nintendo spokesperson told Kotaku. “A bittering agent (denatonium benzoate) has also been applied to the game card.” (The agent is non-toxic.)

Adults, too. Hilariously, it was an adult game reviewer who decided to lick the cartridge.

I put that Switch cart in my mouth and I’m not sure what those things are made of but I can still taste it. Do not try this at home.

— Jeff Gerstmann (@jeffgerstmann) February 25, 2017

No question, it’s a brilliant solution — the only kind that really works, since it requires absolutely no effort from consumers.

Three cheers for Nintendo.

Wouldn’t it be nice if founders and full-blown enterprises followed Nintendo’s lead before something happened?

Image credit: HikingArtist

If the Shoe Fits: A Continuing Train Wreck Called Uber

Friday, February 24th, 2017

A Friday series exploring Startups and the people who make them go. Read all If the Shoe Fits posts here.

5726760809_bf0bf0f558_mMost of the tech/business/news-consuming world has been hearing about Uber’s latest, but doubtfully its last, scandal.

Uber showcases a culture where anything goes: sexual harassment; managerial threats, including physical violence.

A culture based on the overweening arrogance and MAP of CEO Travis Kalanick and fully supported by his top management and a subservient/ineffective/actively resistant HR.

So Kalanick did what all CEOs (and politicians) do when someone shines a light in their rat hole — he announced an internal investigation led by external, high profile lawyers and made promises at an all-hands meeting.

“What I can promise you is that I will get better every day. I can tell you that I am authentically and fully dedicated to getting to the bottom of this.”

This from the guy who two short years ago called his company “Boob-er” in GQ, because it was a chick magnet.

There’s an old joke that you should never trust anyone who says “trust me.”

The same can be said about the person who proclaims their authenticity.

Image credit: HikingArtist

If the Shoe Fits: Who Do You Ask?

Friday, February 17th, 2017

A Friday series exploring Startups and the people who make them go. Read all If the Shoe Fits posts here.

5726760809_bf0bf0f558_mHow many members of your team have been “bloodied in combat?”

How many have worked successfully through multiple economic (upturns/downturns) realities?

Who would you ask if you needed dynamic (question/discuss), as opposed to static (online postings), advice of “the been there/done that” variety to

  • land a candidate;
  • sell in a recession;
  • tweak/kill a marketing campaign;
  • beat the competition; or
  • Layoff a team member?

Don’t ask me; I’ve answered this question multiple times in varied forms.

Instead, ask millennial Tom Goodwin.

Maybe you’ll listen to him.

Image credit: HikingArtist

If the Shoe Fits: Cards Against Humanity’s Great Super Bowl Ad

Friday, February 10th, 2017

A Friday series exploring Startups and the people who make them go. Read all If the Shoe Fits posts here.

If you don’t live in the Midwest you probably missed one of the best, not to mention apropos, super Bowl ads shown.

The ad was from Cards Against Humanity and they listed the reasons it failed on their blog.

  • We wasted time with establishment thinking.
  • Overconfidence in the model.
  • Bad luck.
  • Failure to trust our customers.
  • We were asking the wrong questions.
  • Our ad failed to connect with young people.
  • We were too early.
  • We didn’t add music.
  • We didn’t add music.

How many times have you heard founders say similar things?

Yup, it reads like a generic laundry list of the reasons “why startups fail.”

And they end the post with a fervent Valley paean to failure.

5726760809_bf0bf0f558_mAt Cards Against Humanity, we believe that you can only become a master by trying and failing. In this way, failure is life’s greatest teacher; failure is actually success. At Cards Against Humanity, we fail all the time. We are veterans of failure. And constant failure, plus unlimited capital, is what led us to greatness.

Now you know why this post is called “if the shoe fits”…

Image credit: HikingArtist    
Video credit: Business Insider

If The Shoe Fits: Hypocrisy And Greed In Startup Land

Friday, January 27th, 2017

A Friday series exploring Startups and the people who make them go. Read all If the Shoe Fits posts here.

5726760809_bf0bf0f558_mTuesday I cited a post by Scott Belsky on Medium talking about how employees are often conned (my word) by founders, especially unicorns, when it comes to the wealth that is supposed to flow from their ISO.

As pithy as the post was, some of the comments were even pithier. I especially like this one from  colorfulfool (21st comment)

If profitability were proportional to hypocrisy, there would be no failed startups in the Valley.

Not just true, but succinctly and elegantly stated.

Founders love to talk about the importance of transparency, trust and authenticity.

However, their stock plans and pitfalls thereof exhibit such a high degree of opaqueness and caveat emptor that they kick a hole the size of Texas in the fabric of the founders’ authenticity.

Another prevalent piece of hypocrisy is “change the world.”

Do you really believe that another dating app or being able to evaluate a new restaurant or a better way to buy your groceries will change the world?

While they may impact one’s personal world, they certainly don’t have the impact of something like Mine Kafon.

What is proportional to the Valley’s hypocrisy is its sheer greed.

Actually, when I stop to think about it, the greed probably exceeds even the hypocrisy.

Image credit: HikingArtist

If the Shoe Fits: Answer 5 Questions To Boost Your Management Skills

Friday, January 20th, 2017

A Friday series exploring Startups and the people who make them go. Read all If the Shoe Fits posts here.

5726760809_bf0bf0f558_mDid you start this year with a promise to yourself to be a better boss?

If you didn’t you should have , because no matter how good you are you can always improve — but that’s true for everything.

In December I gave you 56 words that would change your life and at the start of the year three steps to being a better boss.

Today I’m providing five questions to ask yourself.

  1. How well do you delegate, AKA letting go/loss of control.
  2. Is your self esteem tied to your Klout score or your team’s accomplishments?
  3. Are you so tied to your vision that you’re blind to your market’s response?
  4. Do you practice culture by design or by accident?
  5. Do you want to get things done or just done your way.

Next, query five trusted colleagues for objective, outside input.

Compare the responses.

Depending on you’re your goals, adjust your attitudes and actions accordingly.

Image credit: HikingArtist

If the Shoe Fits: Keep The Best — Get Rid Of The Rest

Friday, January 13th, 2017

A Friday series exploring Startups and the people who make them go. Read all If the Shoe Fits posts here.

5726760809_bf0bf0f558_mAs I’ve said before, Steve Jobs may be a good role model for building a company, but not for building a culture.

Just think what would you could build if you combined the best of Apple’s culture with the best of cultural benchmarks — the way Pearl Automation is doing.

Founded in 2014 by three former senior managers from Apple’s iPod and iPhone groups, Pearl has tried to replicate what its leaders view as the best parts of Apple’s culture, like its fanatical dedication to quality and beautiful design. But the founders also consciously rejected some of the less appealing aspects of life at Apple, like its legendary secrecy and top-down management style.

Pearl’s cultural focus is totally inclusive, based on the idea that, since, every employee is contributing to its success, every employee has a “need to know.”

The start-up, which makes high-tech accessories for cars, holds weekly meetings with its entire staff. Managers brief them on coming products, company finances, technical problems, even the presentations made to the board.

Of course, the first thing you need to do is accept that you are not Steve Jobs.

The next thing is to understand that both creativity and failure are necessary to succeed.

Eswar Priyadarshan, who sold his mobile advertising company, Quattro Wireless, to Apple in 2010 and stayed for four years, said that he learned about design and aesthetics during his time there. But he noted that Apple’s high compensation, focused product mission and top-down decision-making tended to damp the risk-taking necessary to start a company.

Mr. Priyadarshan, who is now chief executive of BotCentral, a six-person start-up, compared Apple to a community of warrior monks. “Warrior monks don’t talk and do whatever is asked,” he said.

The actual question you need to answer is: do you want to lead a team of warrior monks or are you more excited about herding a team of innovative, quirky, creative cats.

Image credit: HikingArtist

If the Shoe Fits: 22 Real-Life Ways Not To Succeed

Friday, December 23rd, 2016

A Friday series exploring Startups and the people who make them go. Read all If the Shoe Fits posts here

5726760809_bf0bf0f558_mToday is my last post of 2016.

That gives me nine whole days (I don’t do holidays) to power through the things on my to-do list that I never seem to get around to doing — like the windows.

I’m a world-class procrastinator, which is why it’s a very long list, so nine days isn’t all that much. But I do plan to make the most of them.

Wednesday I offered you 56 words with the power to change your life.

Today you get 22 real life examples of how not to succeed as a boss to keep you busy while I’m gone.

So lift a glass and accept my warmest wishes for a wonderful, joy-filled Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanzaa/whatever-makes-you-happy surrounded by those who care.

And indulge yourself in the three Fs — family, friends and food.

I’ll see you next year and share the changes that are coming to MAPping Company Success. I think you’ll be pleased.

Take care.

Image credit: HikingArtist

If the Shoe Fits: Avoiding Foot-In-Mouth Disease

Friday, December 16th, 2016

A Friday series exploring Startups and the people who make them go. Read all If the Shoe Fits posts here

5726760809_bf0bf0f558_mPronouncements by pundits are often pretty funny, but those that come from corporate heads (who should know better) are worse.

That is especially true when they are obviously suffering from head-in-the-sand syndrome.

Lest you think it’s a modern phenomenon here is one from 1876.

William Orton, President of Western Union, when deciding not to buy the patent for the telephone. “What use could this company make of an electrical toy?”

Steve Jobs said e-readers would fail, because people no longer read.

Steve Ballmer, whose foot spent a lot of time in his mouth, called Google a “house of cards.”

Just last year JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon sounded off about blockchain ledger products, such as Bitcoin

“This is my personal opinion, there will be no real, non-controlled currency in the world. There is no government that’s going to put up with it for long … there will be no currency that gets around government controls.”

Of course, tech execs aren’t the only ones to nosh on their toes.

There are a lot more, read them all on CB Insights blog.

Why?

Because they might help you keep your foot out of your mouth as your company grows.

Image credit: HikingArtist

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