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If The Shoe Fits: Hollow Bros and True Brilliance

Friday, April 21st, 2017

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

5726760809_bf0bf0f558_mI have some great links for you today.

Yes, I realize I’m preaching to the choir and that those who really need to see this won’t.

Unless, of course, you forward it to where it’s most needed.

I’m sure you are tired of my griping (ranting?) about the bro culture, but maybe you’ll feel better knowing that bro culture dates back to ancient Greece, although knowing doesn’t make it any more palatable.

Philosophers are the original, archetypal “brilliant jerks.” And hundreds of years have done little to change that.

It’s not surprising how many brilliant jerks have an “I’m the next Steve Jobs” mentality, which is rarely warrantedtrue genius is all around us, including the urban ghettos — and gravitate to startups.

So what does a life of true brilliance, genius, if you prefer, look like?

It looks like Robert W. Taylor  (died 4/2017) who, in 1968 said, “In a few years,” he wrote, “men will be able to communicate more effectively through a machine than face to face,” and then proceeded to make sure it happened.

Even more so, it looks like John Goodenough.

In 1946, a 23-year-old Army veteran named John Goodenough headed to the University of Chicago with a dream of studying physics. When he arrived, a professor warned him that he was already too old to succeed in the field.

Recently, Dr. Goodenough recounted that story for me and then laughed uproariously. He ignored the professor’s advice and today, at 94, has just set the tech industry abuzz with his blazing creativity. He and his team at the University of Texas at Austin filed a patent application on a new kind of battery that, if it works as promised, would be so cheap, lightweight and safe that it would revolutionize electric cars and kill off petroleum-fueled vehicles. His announcement has caused a stir, in part, because Dr. Goodenough has done it before. In 1980, at age 57, he coinvented the lithium-ion battery that shrank power into a tiny package.

Stupid professor, along with as all those who believe that creativity is an act reserved for the young.

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: Lessons From 178 Failed Startups

Friday, November 18th, 2016

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

5726760809_bf0bf0f558_mYesterday we looked at how dangerous it is to substitute what-we-wish for what-really-is and I promised you a look at startups that died as a result.

Which is what I’m going to do, but not by reinventing the wheel (there’s enough of that without a contribution from me,)

CB Insights put together a great list of 178 failed startups — why they failed as told by their founders or, occasionally, an investor — including links to the full articles.

I hope you take the time to read through, especially those that parallel your own markets, circumstances, etc.

Save the list as a reference; the lessons learned could keep you from stepping in the poo now or somewhere down the road.

Image credit: HikingArtist

Entrepreneurs: Reality vs. Wishful thinking

Thursday, November 17th, 2016

https://www.flickr.com/photos/ky_olsen/3133347219/

For years I’ve interacted with entrepreneurs from the US and other countries. And while they have many traits in common, there is one that never ceases to amaze me — their approach to their users.

Maybe ‘approach’ is the wrong word; perhaps attitude or interpretation or wishful thinking is closer.

Your users are who they are, not who you want them to be.

That means it doesn’t matter if you/your friends/peers think it’s cool.

Or that you/your friends/peers like the style/fashion/etc.

That’s why Lean Methodology says to get out of your office, your comfort zone, and talk to your market.

Actually, rather than talking, you should listen to your market.

Truly listen.

Hear what they are really saying, instead of hearing what you want to hear.

Doing the latter has sunk many a startup.

Be sure to come back tomorrow for a look at some of them.

Image credit: Ky

Entrepreneurs: Working Smarter

Thursday, September 8th, 2016

https://www.flickr.com/photos/juditk/5146762770/

Have you ever noticed that you have a conversation or meet someone with an unusual name and within a day the same subject/name keeps popping up?

Yesterday I wrote about working long hours for bragging rights, along with the resulting perils.

This morning I got up to find a great post from Steve Blank in my mailbox.

In Working Hard is not the same as working smart Blank talks about the fallacy of measuring effectiveness in the 21st Century based on hours worked.

In the 20th century we measured work done by the number of hours each employee logged. (…) This was perpetuated by managers and CEOs who had no other norms and never considered that managing this way was actually less effective than the alternatives.

Blank recommends three actions to start building a better measurement system than hours.

  • Define the output you want for the company getting input from each department/division
  • Define the output you want for each department
  • Ensure that the system does not create unintended consequences

You can get the details in the original post.

And I’ll add the following

  • Focus on the human side
    • Make sure you have full buy-in from all managers
    • Be sure your team understands completely
  • Monitor the human side and correct as necessary

Finally, never forget that excessive hours are the result of bad management and are unsustainable.

Image credit: Judit Klein

Entrepreneurs: Words of Encouragement

Thursday, August 11th, 2016

kg_charles-harris

I only have time for a quick note before my plane lands, but I wanted to share two quotes that have helped me keep going in rough times.

The first is something we all know from our own experience, but it always helps to hear it from “names” who have already pushed through and succeeded.

Success is not built on success. It’s built on failure. It’s built on frustration. Sometimes it’s built on catastrophe. — Sumner Redstone

The second is something that every entrepreneur will swear to, although it would be nice to have summer vacation as we did while actually in school.

There is no education like adversity. –Benjamin Disraeli

Judging from these words of wisdom, I will be phenomenally well educated by the time Quarrio is a huge success.

Plane’s landing; back to work.

If the Shoe Fits: A Useful Personal Assistance Startup

Friday, July 8th, 2016

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

Watching all the startups that eliminate so many of the day-to-day chores of living.

They supposedly free people up to do amazing stuff.

Uh-huh.

However, one startup, Guiding Hands, does more than handle mundane chores; it actually mitigates dangers and difficulties for peripheral non-users.

Thanks to Conan and TBS for introducing Guiding Hands to the world.

(And a hat tip to my friend Tom for sending it to me.)

Entrepreneurs: Chatbots

Thursday, July 7th, 2016

https://www.flickr.com/photos/chrisyarzab/4543027041/

I’m not a fan of a lot of AI, especially chatbots.

Most have speech patterns similar to human speech, lousy diction and rapid speech, which leaves most people with poor hearing our in the cold

And I find them relatively dumb.

Most of us have had run-ins with unhelpful customer service chatbots; the ones that are unable to respond to any but the most mundane quarries — which is why I usually just start by saying ‘representative’ until I get to a human.

I have no understanding why it is better to talk to your TV, rather than use the remote.

The first thing many of my friends and family do on a new iPhone is turn off Siri,

I know that many people love them, which is fine with me; whatever floats your boat.

That said, I learned about one that has more on its mind than ordering pizza.

An artificial-intelligence lawyer chatbot has successfully contested 160,000 parking tickets across London and New York for free, showing that chatbots can actually be useful.

That’s useful. And free.

Still more interesting is the fact that its creator is a 19 year old, with a history of using his skills creating tools for nonprofits, since he was 13.

I may be a digital dinosaur, but I’m not to old to learn and change.

Hopefully, this kind of usefulness is the future of bots.

And who knows. Perhaps by the time I need assistance the young developers will take into account the millions of hearing-challenged people who will be their biggest market, especially in healthcare and daily living.

Flickr image credit: Chris Yarzab

Ducks in a Row: Pundit Poop from Graham and Kalanick

Tuesday, June 14th, 2016

http://www.flickr.com/photos/spacepleb/249761636/

Background:

  • Austin passed a law requiring fingerprint-based criminal checks;
  • Uber and Lyft spent $8 million on a referendum to repeal it; and
  • lost on May 8.
  • On May 15 Paul Graham tweeted

    I will go out on a limb and say Austin has zero chance of being a serious startup hub without Uber and Lyft. (I am an investor in neither.)

Essentially, Graham, a man devoted to innovation and startups, discounted any possible innovation in ride-sharing beyond the current scenario.

(Keep in mind that this is the same guy who claimed that London’s not a startup hub because some establishments still enforce a dress code.)

Little did Graham know just how weak that limb was.

Contrary to his expectations, Austin did not reel in shock, wallow in grief or stay home.

Arcade City Austin / Request a Ride is a Facebook group that has grown rapidly in the weeks following Uber’s and Lyft’s departures. The group, which requires approval to join, is currently populated by more than 33,000 members who use the group to find rides to and from their destinations.

Beyond that effort, there is Zipcar, getme, Fare, Fasten, Wingz, zTrip, RideAustin and InstaRyde riding into town (if not already there) and all willingly complying with the required fingerprint background check.

All this should bring a note of caution to Uber CEO Travis Kalanick’s stated plan to avoid going public as long as possible.

“So I say we are going to IPO as late as humanly possible. It’ll be one day before my employees and significant others come to my office with pitchforks and torches. We will IPO the day before that. Do you get it?”

Amazing arrogance.

  • Graham discounts the world, the people in it and innovation itself.
  • Kalanick plans Uber’s IPO with no consideration of the economy, competitors or the speed at which things change.

Graham’s words have already come back to bite him; Kalanick’s probably will, too.

Flickr image credit: Dave Gough

Entrepreneurs: the Silly Side of Paul Graham

Thursday, June 9th, 2016

http://www.paulgraham.com/images.html via w:en:Image:Paulgraham_240x320.jpg

I’m not sure what I dislike most about Paul Graham; his arrogance, narrow-mindedness (previous link) or his misogynist mindset .

I suppose his latest comments fit the arrogance category, but I’m inclined to add a just-plain-silly category instead.

It all started with Sam Altman’s shoes, which weren’t allowed at the Ritz in London.

Shallow though this test may seem, it shows London’s not a startup hub yet. No hotel in SF could afford this rule.

— Paul Graham (@paulg) (read the thread.)

So, according to Graham, in order to be a good place for startups, a city/all businesses must drop any standards and just accept whatever.

Of course, this is the same guy who said that a city can’t be serious about startups if it doesn’t have Uber and Lyft.

Hmmm, does that mean Silicon Valley wasn’t a startup hub prior to 2009?

As I said — silly.

Image credit: Sarah Harlin via Wikipedia

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