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I was thinking about how YouTube has rocked music videos to their core along with many other thoughts about record labels and I was all geared up to write a delightful diatribe on how screwed record labels are, or maybe more to the point how musicians don’t need record labels. I cannot think of a single reason that is so compelling that a person should get a record label. That is just a fact.
Having said that, I promptly found a well-written article that I thought did the subject justice. Without further ado:
It sucks, but it is true. When I play basketball, I watch how you play and I judge what kind of person you are. Unfortunate but true, because I relate how I play basketball to how I live my life.
I don’t care about dunks. A dunk is fun, but it is, generally speaking, a pure gift of genetics. It is the athletic equivalent of being born with a silver spoon in your mouth.
A great assist is so much more. To make an incredible pass that allows someone else to score requires you to empathize with what your teammates are doing. It requires you to completely understand what is happening in the game, both for your teammates and your opponents. It requires preparation and thoughtfulness. And it is an act of kindness, a mitzvah. You not only made a great play for yourself and your team, you made a great play for the other player. A great passer makes other players play better. A great scorer does not make his team better, he just scores.
Anyone can be a great passer. But when you watch that video, you think, “I could not make that pass.” That is because you have not worked on your game enough. These are the greatest players in history. You have to spend time in the lab. You have to work on your game to be great. If you work, you can make that pass. If you don’t, you can’t. You can always get better at passing if you are willing to put in the time.
Don’t tell me about your 30 point game. Tell me about your triple double. You got 15 points and made 10 great passes and got 10 rebounds? Man, you were working. You got 30 points? Sounds like you shot a lot. I don’t need shooters, I need great players. If we have great players, the points will come. If we have a bunch of guys that love their own game, this is going to suck. Team-first is the only way to play and the only way to live and work.
In life and in basketball, you need to look to make a great pass.
(Keep watching that video, they slow roll you and save the top 10 passes for very late in the video.)
Rachel Zoe is my idol and she should be your also.
Who is Rachel Zoe? Well, if you have to ask, this is probably not that interesting a post. Rachel Zoe is a professional fashion consultant and star of her own reality TV show. I saw her reality TV show for the first time the other day and I have to say, it was about what you would expect: It was basically terrible. But Rachel Zoe is probably a somewhat interesting person: Zoe’s current client list includes Cameron Diaz, Jennifer Garner, Kate Hudson, Kate Beckinsale, Debra Messing, Demi Moore, Liv Tyler, Joy Bryant, Molly Sims, Beau Garett, Eva Mendes, Paula Patton, Anne Hathaway, Jennifer Lawrence and Miley Cyrus. Those are some big names and they basically wear whatever Rachel Zoe tells them to wear.
Anyway, one of the “dramatic moments of the show” goes like this: She is in Paris for fashion week and having an awesome time galavanting from show to show hobnobbing with the fashion-famous. Suddenly she gets a call from America that one of her clients needs an outfit for a photo shoot for a major magazine and did not like any of the clothes that Zoe sent her before she left.
Zoe becomes distressed. She actually says, “How can today go from like the best day ever to the worst day ever. My heart is pounding.” She starts whipping her team to come up with new options for her client, but in a fairly nice way. This is supposed to, I believe, create drama on the show: “crisis!” But what it drove home to me was this: Rachel Zoe cares about her clients. When her clients are unhappy, she is super unhappy. When a client is upset with her performance, it is the worst thing in the world and she will do anything to make it right.
Do you care about your performance that much or are you content to roll with the punches?
Cogmap’s home page is awesome. It is awesome like an Apple product. That is how awesome it is.
I was contemplating Cogmap’s home page today and how I could change it to make you love Cogmap more. (Cogmap is both severely under-resourced and was created pre-good tools for split-testing, so no other home page has ever really existed.)
Here is my story:
One of the great things about Apple marketing is that all they do for marketing is show you how to use the product. When people go buy an iPhone, they already know how to use it because the commercials they saw that made them want the iPhone trained them how to use it.
The Cogmap home page is fairly similar in that way. It does a great job of showing you what the product does and how to use it – it’s usability, much like a good Apple product, is its best feature.
People wonder why more VCs fund young people, why more young people are entrepreneurs, and things like that. I have a theory: Young people are too dumb to know better.
This is a huge advantage and it has multiple dimensions. Certainly, it was true of my first start-up. Ah, I remember it well. Our initial business plan said that if we worked really, really, really hard, we could make $35,000 per year!
That is what people are up against. Start-ups where the goal is only to make $35,000 per year. The result is that their cost structure is massively lower, they have access to talent that is incredibly inexpensive, they think 100 customers offering them $20 per month is a mind-blowing business.
But here is the real challenge: They will do anything for a buck. Think about it. If what I just described sounds pretty awesome, imagine what they would offer to do if a customer offered them $15,000. They would do ANYTHING. People with experience out in the corporate world don’t just have mortgages and families and cost structures. They have an idea of what a dollar should be worth. They look for businesses that have “models”. They look for businesses with “Market Size”. And they look for businesses that sound “reasonable”. This is probably the most heart-breaking of all. Very few “grown-ups” try to start businesses that are incredibly hard and/or expensive. They know better! It’s too hard! It’s too expensive! The model doesn’t work!
Young people will start that business and then slowly pivot their way to real revenue and profitability.
If you want to start an awesome start-up, you should start thinking more like that.
In this post, when I refer to company culture, I am not referring to other important activities like company values and employee satisfaction. Specifically, I am writing about designing a way of working which will:
Distinguish you from competitors
Ensure that critical operating values persist such as delightingcustomers or making beautiful products
Help you identify employees that fit with your mission
That is a big deal. It is not about yoga or massages or open layout or all-hands meetings or transparency. Great culture is about things that help you win.
When I reflected on it, I have only been a part of one company that had a culture that was meaningful in this way: Advertising.com.
Advertising.com had a culture centered on one event: The War Room.
The War Room was an all-hands meeting that happened every day at 9am. It was a 30 minute review of the previous days results. The CEO attended, the COO attended, everyone attended – almost every day.
This was a powerful, powerful message. Advertising.com was (is) a performance advertising network – we were arbitrageurs. We were squeezing pennies out of nickels, so there was a significant operational component to the business: When you make all of your money at the margins, neatness counts. The CEO and COO would call people out: What happened with this campaign yesterday? Why was performance not better? What are we doing to improve results tomorrow?
This had an interesting by-product: There was a culture of early risers at Ad.com. At 9am, someone important was going to ask you about the operational details of things that happened the prior day. The worst answer was, “I don’t know, I will look into that”. The best answer was, “The targeting was over-constrained, we have already made a change this morning and it is already looking better.”
You wanted to give the best answer, so you needed to be ready. You needed to have reviewed your campaigns prior to the all-hands. You needed to identify and resolve issues right then.
And if you think about it, the result was not just that the all-hands was better and you looked better: We made more money. Results the next day were better because you took care of business at 8am instead of 2pm. That is 6 hours of incremental profitability that goes right to the bottom line.
What made this work: This was a rare and real example of top-down commitment. The entire senior management team was in the room at 9am every morning. They called in if they were traveling. They were engaged. This isn’t about putting together some values and sending out a quarterly email. This is 30 minutes every day spent reinforcing the real, REAL values of the business: Operational excellence, attention to details, doing the little things that make the difference between losses and profits in a performance business.
The result: One of the best acquisitions of all time. Because the founders stayed after Aol acquired them and continued to reinforce the culture, even Aol was unable to screw it up for years and years.
I am a mentor at Fortify.vc’s The Fort incubator. You know what I get? I get to be a mentor!
Lot’s of people want to give back and I am all for that.
But I wish we had more qualified mentors.
Let me be clear: Mentor’s can make or break your business. In David Thomson’s book Blueprint to a Billion: 7 Essentials to Achieve Exponential Growth, he reviews a significant amount of documentation explaining how if a business does not have a board member that has built a billion dollar business, the odds that an entrepreneur will build their own billion dollar business falls dramatically.
You should get a billion dollar mentor for your start-up.
But most mentors, myself included, are nowhere near what you are looking for. What is really crazy is that these days, I see people that are still in incubators, not yet having found product/market fit for their product, in many cases doing start-ups straight out of college, that are mentoring! I don’t want to be a jerk, and I have no illusions that I am some special guy, but really?
On the one hand, everyone should have a mentor. Larry and Serge have Bill Campbell. Bill Campbell probably has God actively mentoring him. Are these people bad mentors? No way, they are probably great (I have never met them personally). Still, if your mentoring qualification is primarily that people have mentored you, that is a bit disturbing.
Let me spend just a minute throwing myself under the bus: My last start-up was acquired when we were just 3 people. I have never directly managed an organization larger than 30 people. I have never raised a significant amount of money. Yet I advise people all the time because I think about all the crappy advice and crappy advisors that I got/had at my start-ups and I feel like I can at least keep people from getting the same crappy advice/advisors that I got.
Still, don’t pick a mentor for how nice and friendly they are. You need a mentor that will push you. You need a mentor that you respect. Everyone is a mentor, but you don’t want them to be your mentor.
A lot of chicken little’s have been heard from this week proclaiming the doom of everything as “digital dollars are turned into mobile pennies”. Specifically, I saw two articles that caught my attention:
While mobile ad spending is the fastest growing among all media categories, it captures $6.5bn, or just 1.3 per cent of total advertising revenues, according to Interpublic’s ad buying firm MagnaGlobal. In five years, mobile ad revenues will inch up only slightly to 3.3 per cent of total ad revenues, the group predicts.
They act like this is terrible, but this is a CAGR of > 20%! Billions of dollars flowing in every year.
Similarly, I saw this comment on AdExchanger:
Pandora reported better than expected (but still a loss) fiscal fourth quarter earnings late Thursday as the company continues to concentrate on a mobile future. See the release (PDF). The Wall Street Journal digs into the details, “Mobile ads still aren’t as lucrative as those on traditional computers. The latter garnered $52.82 per 1,000 listening hours, compared with $25.05 for mobile.”
Now, you read that and you say, “Man, mobile totally sucks!” But keep in mind, that the CAGR is 20%+ YoY!
Display advertising has been around for more than a decade! Mobile advertising is just starting. From a market size perspective, digital advertising was around the same size as mobile is today way back in 2005! It seems to me that if mobile is in “2005″, being at 50% of desktop’s monetization is actually pretty good. I would expect that in the next two years, that 20% CAGR could increase Pandora’s revenue on the mobile side fairly dramatically.
The efficient growth of mobile value for publishers promises a bright future in the mobile advertising space. There is a lot of headroom!