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Can You Tweet @JeffBezos?

Friday, September 1st, 2017

As most of you know, in June, Jeff Bezos turned to Twitter for philanthropy ideas and received nearly 47,000 responses.

The story got more interesting after Unanimous AI got interested.

Unanimous AI is an artificial intelligence platform that claims to make super-intelligent decisions based on the wisdom of the crowd, but not in small numbers.

Apparently, crunching big numbers can provide some amazing results.

When the company has held these swarms, the group has correctly predicted the winners of the 2015 Oscars, the first four horses of the 2016 Kentucky Derby in 2016, and the eight teams that would make it to the 2016 MLB playoffs, including the Chicago Cubs’ victory.

You have to admit those results are pretty impressive (especially the Cubs’ victory).
Long story short, after crunching the data access to clean water was the “winner.”

Two things have happened since then — one you couldn’t help noticing and the other more esoteric.

  • Hurricane Harvey brought the issue of clean water front and center in most people’s minds; Harvey changed the focus from “somewhere else” to “home.”
  • A product called the OffGridBox.

Pre Harvey, OffGridBox estimated 720,000 US families needed the box.

Post Harvey, the need is in the millions — and bottled water won’t cut it, even ignoring the environmental effects of all that plastic.

To date, only 28 OffGridBoxs have been installed.

But those 28 units have impacted 12,100 people!

The basic unit costs a reasonable $15,000.

Certainly Bezos and his network have the chops to help the business scale quickly, which should bring the cost down much further.

Now I need help from you, my readers.

As you all know I’m no social media maven, so I’m asking those of you who are to tweet @JeffBezos the link to OffGridBox.

I honestly don’t care if he sees my post; the important thing is for him to see OffGridBox.

Harvey left unbelievable devastation in its wake.

Irma and (possibly) another storm may not be far behind.

If the Shoe Fits: Who are you?

Friday, October 23rd, 2015

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

5726760809_bf0bf0f558_mHow would you respond to what works best?

Do you agree with Carlos Brito, Brazilian chief of Anheuser-Busch InBev NV?

“If you want the best out of people you have to put pressure on them all the time.”

Or are you more like Shamsheer Vayalil, founder and managing director of VPS Healthcare, founded in 2007; today it has 650 physicians and 7,500 employees and serves some 2 million patients a year?

I was a good listener. I would listen to people. I would accept that I didn’t have any experience. So I hired the best people on the job.

If you’ve read much of what I write you’ll know I support Shamsheer’s attitude far more than Brito.

As do Marc Benioff and Jeff Bezos.

Different approaches, both yielding success.

Either way the message is clear: the best CEOs in the world listen more, whether it’s to customers, employees, or business partners — and doing so can go a long way.

Yet another reason to make sure you know yourself.

Flickr Image credit: HikingArtist

Why John Doerr is Wrong

Wednesday, April 15th, 2015


John Doerr of Kleiner Perkins believes that the most successful tech entrepreneurs are “white, male, nerds.

“That correlates more with any other success factor that I’ve seen in the world’s greatest entrepreneurs. If you look at [Amazon founder Jeff] Bezos, or [Netscape founder Marc] Andreessen, [Yahoo co-founder] David Filo, the founders of Google, they all seem to be white, male, nerds who’ve dropped out of Harvard or Stanford and they absolutely have no social life.”

If you dissect it, is an ignorant, short-sighted statement, especially from such a  prominent star in the tech firmament.

Let’s take the words separately in their reverse order to see why.

In the tech world, nerds are typically consumed by the bleeding edge of technology, socially challenged and will doggedly pursue their ideas come Hell or high water.
Of course there are more male nerds. Starting in elementary school, girls are discouraged from STEM, whether it’s Barbie saying, “Math is tough!” to the unconscious bias that permeates our classrooms and companies.

As to white, nerds actually come in many shapes, sizes, genders, colors, faiths and from across the socio-economic spectrum. but anyone who follows the current state of tech culture shouldn’t be surprised.

The real reason that that white, male nerds are successful is that they get funded.

They get funded because they are connected — by family, friends, school friends, ex colleagues, etc. — which means they get into the right accelerators (just as Harvard and Stanford are the right schools) or are personally introduced to investors.

The end result is that if you take a superficial look at the stats Doerr’s comment seems to be true—but it is not.

Image credit: TechCrunch

Ducks in a Row: Amazon’s Non-Compete Paranoia

Tuesday, March 31st, 2015

https://www.flickr.com/photos/tambako/6968045836Non-compete agreements are the bane of workers, especially those whose skills are industry-specific and don’t travel well — such as semiconductors — and whose employers answer to state laws other than California’s.

And it’s easy to understand employer paranoia regarding proprietary information, trade secrets, customer lists, etc.

Intel’s legendary Andy Grove built its culture on the idea that “only the paranoid survive,” but Jeff Bezos’ paranoia makes Grove look like Mister Mellow.
That paranoia really shows up in the 18 month non-compete clause for hourly and seasonal workers.

“[Workers can not] engage in or support the development, manufacture, marketing, or sale of any product or service that competes or is intended to compete with any product or service sold, offered, or otherwise provided by Amazon (or intended to be sold, offered, or otherwise provided by Amazon in the future) that employee worked on or supported, or about which employee obtained or received confidential information”

Even more bizarre is the definition of “competitors,” which include physical retailers, publishers, e-commerce retailers, media companies, payment processing and information/computing storage.

Granted, it’s never been enforced and the company says they are removing it, but it certainly gives a window on Bezos’ paranoia.

And while it could be the product of an unconstrained law department, but given Bezos’ well-known micro-focus that’s doubtful .

Image credit: Tambako The Jaguar

Entrepreneurs: Wisdom from Jeff Bezos

Thursday, August 22nd, 2013

Jeff Bezos holds kick-ass entrepreneur credentials.

First, he really did create something humongous from nothing.

Secondly, he didn’t patent every innovation, like one-click purchasing, that would have crippled all of ecommerce.

The following video is from 2009.

Here’s the money quote, or perhaps mantra is a better label.

“Invention requires a long-term willingness to be misunderstood. You do something that you genuinely believe in, that you have conviction about, but for a long period of time well-meaning people may criticize that effort, and when you receive criticism from well-meaning people it pays to say — first of all, search yourself — are they right? And if they are you need to adapt what you’re doing. If they’re not right, if you really have conviction that they’re not right then you need to have that long term willingness to be misunderstood.” 

But it’s his recommendation that you need to honestly explore the possibility that the nay-sayers may be correct and you need to adapt that is most important.

Thanks to Business Insider for reincarnating this information.

YouTube credit: AspenInstitute

Expand Your Mind: 12 Greatest Modern Entrepreneurs

Saturday, June 30th, 2012

A couple of weeks ago I linked to stories about great women entrepreneurs. Today we’ll look at the guys.

A contributor at Fortune created a list of what he considers the 12 greatest entrepreneurs of our time.

They are Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Fred Smith, Jeff Bezos, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, Howard Schultz, Mark Zukerberg, John Mackey, Herb Kelleher, Narayana Murthy, Sam Walton, Muhammad Yunus

These founders created and then nurtured healthy, sustainable organizations that now have a combined market value of more than $1.7 trillion. They directly employ more than 3 million people…

Each of their companies sits at the nucleus of a thriving ecosystem that has cultivated and nurtured dozens if not hundreds of other enterprises.

There is a short profile of each at the link; considering it’s a kind of holiday weekend that’s enough reading.

Flickr image credit: pedroelcarvalho

Expand Your Mind: Bad to Great

Saturday, September 10th, 2011

Bosses; today we’re going to start with the very negative and move forward to the very positive. Have you (or someone you know) ever worked for a boss who you thought was nuts? You might be surprised at how accurate that “diagnosis” actually is.

One out of every 25 company high-flyers is believed to have the mental disorder but disguises it through their high status, charm and manipulation in the workplace.

Speaking of nuts, have you ever read a story where you couldn’t figure out which boss qualified as such?

A businessman at the centre of a £10 million High Court battle involving claims of drunkenness and lewd behavior among senior staff at Microsoft in Britain is the victim of a “boardroom ambush”, according to friends.

What comes between very, very bad and very, very good? It depends on who you ask.

And that brings us to Carol Bartz, who was fired by phone to avoid rumors, AKA board leaks. More interesting is the difference between the email to employees sent by the Board and Bartz’s blunt, honest comments in an exclusive interview; blunt in spite of probably costing her as much as $10 million for violating a non-disparagement clause.

Fortune today published an explosive interview with Carol Bartz, who on Tuesday was fired as Yahoo CEO after 32 months on the job. In it, she referred to her fellow board members as “doofuses,” and said that they “f—ed me over.”

Finally, moving all the way to positive, we have Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, who, along with Tony Hsieh at Zappos (which Amazon acquired at Hsieh’s request) are the poster boys of great culture, employee engagement, innovation and profit. This profile from Fast Company is one of the best articles about Bezos that I’ve seen.

Has he been lucky? “Extraordinarily,” he says. It couldn’t have happened without “planetary alignment,” he explains. But luck isn’t all. Bezos’s success also springs from his ideas about running companies and creating innovation. His thinking is farsighted and intuitive. … “It’s one thing to be a data junkie who just looks at history, but Jeff takes a prospective view. He takes risks and he changes and changes.”


Flickr image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/pedroelcarvalho/2812091311/

Expand Your Mind: Innovation and Entrepreneurs

Saturday, November 6th, 2010

expand-your-mindMention innovation and most people think of startups and the entrepreneurs who take the risk, so I thought today would be a good time to check in to the goings on in that world.

First, a look at 11 Harsh Realities of Being an Entrepreneur for those who are considering an entrepreneurial path; not to turn you off, but to spur you on.

By knowing the harsh realities that lie ahead, you can be prepared when they come about so you can solider on.

Getting funded is as much a function of who you know as what you do and any serious entrepreneur will walk over hot coals if doing so gives an advantage to that end. Enter Y Combinator, that not only gives entrepreneurs an edge getting funding, but on getting better terms.

Many of the best applications come from accomplished programmers who have working product demos but lack gilt-edged Valley Rolodexes. … The real winners are rising stars like Jessica Mah. “The competition this created for us was amazing.”

Social media, now just called ‘social’ may be a hotbed of the young, but don’t rule the old men of investing out of the game even when it is someone who seems to be constantly switching horses and proclaiming his current mount ‘the next big thing’.

Sand Hill Road was abuzz after Kleiner Perkins’ John Doerr rallied Jeff Bezos, Zynga founder Mark Pincus, and Mark Zuckerberg to a joint press conference at Facebook in Palo Alto and announced a $250 million fund to invest in the “next wave of social entrepreneurs.

Marc Andreessen and partner Ben Horowitz are successful entrepreneurs who are changing the focus of the venture world by doing extremely early-stage funding. And here is a more in-depth look at what at what Andreessen is doing.

Although it is too early to judge the firm’s financial success, Andreessen Horowitz represents a new breed of venture capitalist that is financing new kinds of start-ups.

Entrepreneurs come in many flavors and not all are in the commercial world as the new breed of activist shows. If you are one of those who laments the problems overseas, take a look at what’s being done in the name of ‘DIY foreign aid‘.

It’s striking that the most innovative activists aren’t necessarily the ones with the most resources, or the best tools. … Rather, what often happens is that those best positioned to take action look the other way, and then the initiative is taken by the Scharpfs and Shannons of the world, who are fueled by some combustible mix of indignation and vision.

Finally, although the power of social has hardly been tapped, it is already the meeting ground of charity and profit.

Founded in 2007 by political activist Joe Green and former Facebook President Sean Parker (yes, that Sean Parker), Causes uses social media tools to virtually connect thousands of charities with their supporters and potential donors. The Berkeley (Calif.) company began as one of the first applications on Facebook and now serves as a broker for 119 million charitably minded users.

Image credit: pedroCarvalho on flickr

Amazon's Marketing Leadership

Monday, September 28th, 2009

Yesterday I shared quotes from Amazon.com CEO Jeff Bezos that focused on entrepreneurial topics, especially stock and its price.

Today, we’re going to look at Bezos’ vision for Amazon marketing.

Let’s start with what you thought of the last Amazon ad you saw. You’re probably scratching your head and thinking that it wasn’t very good, since you don’t remember it.

There’s nothing wrong with your memory or the ad, for that matter, because there was no ad.

That’s right, no giant ad budget, no super-size presence at tradeshows, no typical corporate marketing.

“Instead of shelling out big bucks for lavish trade shows and TV and magazine ads, Amazon pours money into technology for its Web site, distribution capability, and good deals on shipping. … “It is pretty unprecedented that their brand has ascended so quickly without a large marketing budget,” says Hayes Roth, chief marketing officer at brand consultant Landor Associates. “It’s not about splaying their logo everywhere. They are all about ease of use.”

Amazon has done well in the recession for the very reasons that Wall Street lambasted them after the dot com bubble burst.

Wall Street wanted short-term profits, while Bezos focused on the long-term.

When I was looking for yesterday’s quotes, I also found these two and they say it all.

“If you do build a great experience, customers tell each other about that. Word of mouth is very powerful.”

There are two kinds of companies, those that work to try to charge more and those that work to charge less. We will be the second.”

It takes enormous strength of character to stay focused on the future when investors are pounding on you to focus on immediate returns.

Too many CEOs sell their company’s future by focusing on keeping investors, analysts and the media happy in the short-term.

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Image credit: TimYang.net on flickr

Quotable Quotes: Jeff Bezos

Sunday, September 27th, 2009

I want to share three comments from Jeff Bezos today, because tomorrow’s post is about him.

They all focus on the financial side and point up the great difference between Bezos and many other CEOs when it comes to money and stock.

If Bezos is anything he is pragmatic and real—no BS. And that is just as true when he is talking about entrepreneurial topics as about his business.

The truth in this comment has only increased over the years and will continue into the future. “Good ideas will always get funded, so that’s not going to be a problem. But you will see that it will be harder and harder for bad ideas to get funded.”

“It’s part of the territory with Internet stocks, that kind of volatility. It can be up 30 percent one month, it can be down 30 percent in a month, and a minute spent thinking about the short-term stock price is a minute wasted.” Obviously, Bezos never wasted any minutes on the subject.

If you’ve followed Amazon at all, you know that every time Bezos invested in better technology or added product lines Wall Street predicted its imminent demise. Even today, after a decade of success, the analysts question Amazon’s every move.

Bezos takes it in stride, still focusing on the long term and customer satisfaction, as he has all along.

“No. I’ve taken plenty of criticism, but it’s always been about our stock price and never about our customer experience. After the bubble burst, I would sit down with our harshest critics, and at the end of the meeting they would say, “I’m a huge customer.” You know that when your harshest critics are among your best customers, you can’t be doing that badly.”

Join me tomorrow for a look at Bezos’ approach to nonmarkteing.

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Image credit: etech on flickr

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