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If the Shoe Fits: are You Addicted to Wealth?

Friday, January 24th, 2014

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

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This is a short post, because I want you to read the longer one at the link.

In an opinion piece, Sam Polk, a former hedge-fund trader and current founder of the nonprofit Groceryships, talks about wealth addiction.

Wealth addiction was described in 1980 by the late sociologist and playwright Philip Slater, but Polk speaks about it from a been there/done that perspective.

I was 30 years old, had no children to raise, no debts to pay, no philanthropic goal in mind. I wanted more money for exactly the same reason an alcoholic needs another drink: I was addicted.

Read the post, then look in the mirror and ask yourself if you are or are getting addicted.

Wealth addiction isn’t a case of wanting to get rich; it is a case of nothing is enough.

And it applies to more than money—from followers to titles to trophy relationships and everything in-between.

 Image credit: HikingArtist

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How to Live

Monday, January 20th, 2014

I thought I’d share some advice with you today.

It comes in two parts with images you can save and share (just call me InstaMAP).

I’ve always believed that humans shouldn’t talk in absolutes, such as ‘always’ and ‘never’.

That said, I have found the following to be as universally applicable, i.e., absolute, as is humanly possible.

I especially like it because it underlines that you always have a choice.

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Sometimes people choose not to find a way for reasons that seem valid, but most don’t hold up to scrutiny.

The following provides a roadmap for how they should behave.

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Flickr image credit: Arya Ziai 1 & 2

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If the Shoe Fits: a Tale of Two Companies

Friday, January 10th, 2014

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

5726760809_bf0bf0f558_mLast week two companies were in the news.

One successfully gamed the gods of Google, as millions of others have tried to do for years, got caught and was banished from the kingdom.

The other’s security was breached and more than four million of its customers’ phone numbers were published.

The one that did no damage to its customers apologized.

The one that betrayed its users did nothing—no apology, no explanation and no security fix.

Even granting the incredible level of today’s tech arrogance saying/doing nothing is a little much.

My question to you is simple; in similar circumstances who would you follow, the founders of Rap Genius or Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel?

Image credit: HikingArtist

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Self-censorship Not Allowed

Monday, December 30th, 2013

http://www.flickr.com/photos/carolyntiry/3992988737/

There is a major push by many news and media sites to bring back at least a modicum of civility by eliminating comment anonymity.

The general feeling is that the ability to remain anonymous encourages a general nastiness that is unlikely to happen if we had to take responsibility for our actions.

In other words, when your real identity is attached to our actions you are more likely to show some self-restraint.

While many prominent sites are encouraging (forcing?) people to take a second look before hitting enter and practice a bit of self-censorship, Facebook is taking the opposite tack.

Unfortunately, the code in your browser that powers Facebook still knows what you typed—even if you decide not to publish it.* It turns out that the things you explicitly choose not to share aren’t entirely private.

While people are freaking out over NSA collecting phone numbers and the FBI being able to turn on their computer’s webcam, most don’t seem to consider Facebook a threat.

People surveilled through their computers’ cameras aren’t choosing to share video of themselves, just as people who self-censor on Facebook aren’t choosing to share their thoughts. The difference is that the FBI needs a warrant but Facebook can proceed without permission from anyone.

Facebook much prefers you to do a continual, uncensored brain dump, whether civil or hate-filled, truth or lies, it doesn’t matter as long as you post it.

Das and Kramer [Facebook researchers] argue that self-censorship can be bad because it withholds valuable information. If someone chooses not to post, they claim, “[Facebook] loses value from the lack of content generation.”

And in case you are wondering how Facebook loses value remember that the ads you see are based on what you post.

In the age of Facebook, “let it all hang out” has taken on a whole new meaning.

Flickr image credit: Carolyn Tiry

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If the Shoe Fits: How to Create a Truly Open Culture

Friday, December 27th, 2013

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

5726760809_bf0bf0f558_mI probably sound cynical, but I do get tired of listening to founders talk about the openness, honesty and authenticity of their culture even as they go to great lengths to protect their salary and stock grant information, hiring criteria and customer interaction information.

Discussing salaries and/or stock grants is grounds for termination in many companies

Google is notorious for killing blogs on Blogger with no warning and no explanation except that they violated the TOS, but offering no specific information as to what the violation was or responding to the blog owner’s queries.

If you choose to talk the openness approach, then you should read up on a CEO who truly walks it.

In a post on Buffer’s Open blog, CEO Joel Gascoigne reveals his salary along with the salary of every single employee in the company, and includes the formula the company uses to get to each one.

Image credit: HikingArtist

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Entrepreneurs: 5 Keys When Branding Your Startup

Thursday, December 19th, 2013

matthew weeksOpportunities to publicize your startup through talks and interviews can be golden if you remember these basics.

  1. Create a set of no more than five sound bytes, i.e., brief, core points to make in all of your talks and interviews No matter what happens, be sure you get those four or five key points into the conversation and stick to them.
  1. It’s normal for the constant repetition of those points to become boring for you, but it’s imperative that you control the narrative and the discussion so that you can deliver your key points. You will survive boring.  
  1. The biggest mistake CEOs and founders make in these cases is to go in and “wing it.”  You need to use these opportunities in a carefully planned way and deliver your four to five key points every time.  That’s how PR and branding work…. boring repetition and strict discipline to stay on point, no matter what the venue or specific question asked.
  1. Just as critical is to access an advisor with experience delivering a consistent brand message, who will coach you, help you write your key bullet points and messages and practice with you to polish your delivery.
  1. If you create a founder’s video be sure to make it simple and informal. If it’s for a crowdfunding effort edgier and more “amateur” (less slick and professional) will resonate better. People will donate because they are swept up by the story and the emotion and the idea behind the deal.  Not the facts of the product or the “benefit” in a logical sense. It must be personal and emotional. Try using a camera phone, such as a high end Nokia, iPhone or Samsung, and it will be great—edgy enough to have good credibility and authenticity.

 And while these five points sound easy and simple, the discipline to follow-through on them is not.

Matt Weeks is Currently VP & General Manger, Ecosystem at Planet Soho, the industry’s leading cloud-based business management platform for micro-business customers and creatives; co-founder and investor in WorkersCount and Advisor/Mentor at ZOOMPesa Systems & Technology: The Mobile & Online Money Transfer Service with a Heart and a contributor here when he can make time.

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Entrepreneurs: Using Mindfulness to Build Success

Thursday, December 5th, 2013

http://www.flickr.com/photos/cambodia4kidsorg/4567708281/

Entrepreneurs are in love with their technology, whether it’s software, hardware, services, food, etc.

Doesn’t matter, given their druthers they would much prefer to tell you why the technology is so awesome and how it will change the world—or at least a part of it.

That’s OK when talking to another techie, but investors are far more interested in the market.

And, other than cutting-edge outliers, the market doesn’t really give a damn about the technology.

The market is strictly WIIFM or, as Asana cofounder Justin Rosenstein puts it,

“Ultimately everything else we do is essentially a means toward an end of providing the user with some experience. We are really constantly grounding the whole company in that empathy of realizing that all the work you’re doing is a means to an end in service of and dedication to other people, an act of service to help others.”

Asana’s numbers are impressive.

It was founded in 2008 (think Recession), exited beta in 2011 (three years), has over 50 employees and is used by hundreds of thousands of teams from the likes of Twitter, Foursquare, LinkedIn and dozens of others.

It has a valuation north of $300 million.

Asana accomplished all this with just $38.5 million in venture funding—a tiny number by today’s standards.

Read the interview of Rosenstein and cofounder Dustin Moskovitz and their use of mindfulness to create a culture that focused on customers.

Then evaluate the focus of your own culture.

Because no matter how cool your technology, it’s worthless if people don’t/won’t buy it.

Flickr image credit: cambodia4kidsorg

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Do You DIY?

Monday, November 11th, 2013

http://www.flickr.com/photos/smkybear/2239030703/

Oops; Wally Bock’s at it again; much to the detriment of a majority of the leadership industry who aren’t into DIY.

Wally once again put the ball firmly back in management’s court when it comes to engagement.

He did that with an irreverent (gently sarcastic?) take on the ills that engagement is supposed to cure and explaining five engaging actions that bosses at any/every level can and should take.

Wally is a gentleman and far more subtle than I, so he refrained from the blunt assessment I recently gave a client after recommending a similar program.

When “Richard” balked at the personal effort involved and excused his reluctance by saying he would rather “bring in professionals to formulate and implement a strong engagement program” I couldn’t stop laughing.

Richard was offended and we, as my 90 year-old maiden aunt used to say, had words.

The upshot was that I suggested Richard do two things,

  1. find a coach who wasn’t into DIY and had a comprehensive list of consultants to recommend; and
  2. update his resume now, since, based on his team’s productivity, creativity and turnover, he would be needing it sooner rather than later.

Flickr image credit: Wendy

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Ducks in a Row: What Does Your Advertising Reveal?

Tuesday, October 15th, 2013

http://www.flickr.com/photos/recoverling/2455570917/Just as a company’s culture reflects its values, its advertising typically reflects its culture.

Most ads are relatively generic, cars, food, even drugs; with minor changes to the words or voiceover you can interchange competing products almost unnoticeably.

Most companies prefer to play it safe, whether in advertising or culture, sticking with the idea that “if it works for them it will work for us.” Call it the no/low risk approach.

Back when Apple’s culture was cutting-edge, so were its ads—remember the ad introducing the Mac? It was shown only once during the 1984 Super Bowl, but is remembered 30 years later.
A far cry from the safe, generic iPhone ads of today, which are quickly forgotten.

According to a new ad from Guinness, “The choices we make reveal the true nature of our character.”

A great mantra and absolutely true—for individuals and corporations.

Guinness’ new ad chose to go against every cultural norm found in beer advertising.

Did it work?

Flickr credit: recoverling; YouTube credit: Guinness

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Entrepreneurs: Cause + Laughter + YouTube = Money & Change

Thursday, September 5th, 2013

In a world that constantly chatters about the importance of authenticity what’s a good recipe for staying authentic and enjoying a high level of creative freedom while making a giant difference by shaking up the establishment and still be able to pay the bills?

Ingredients

A group comedic actors, scriptwriters and directors in their 20s to late 30s

Add a wicked, satirical edge.

Mix well.

Post on your own YouTube channel.

Watch the money and changes roll in, although the money comes faster.

(Be sure to turn on Closed Captioning if you aren’t fully bilingual in Spanish.)

Any question why more than five million people have watched this?

YouTube credit: portadosfundos

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