The Curve

The Curve. A recommended read.

“In the commodity era of limited availability, we asked ‘Can I get it?’ In the goods era of manufactured product, we asked ‘How much does it cost?’ In the service era of quality, we asked ‘Is it any good?’ Now that we can get great products cheaply whenever we want, we have started asking a new question; ‘How does it make me feel?'” – Nicholas Lovell

“…try to find the 10 per cent or so of your audience who are prepared not only to pay, but to pay handsomely. Don’t limit how much they can spend, but allow them to spend ten, fifty or a hundred times the previous fixed price. That way you are not only widening your audience reach at the lower price points but replacing much of the lost revenue by nothing more complex than enabling those who love what you do to pay more for things that are valuable to them.” – Nicholas Lovell

You can still innovate in saturated spaces

I often hear or read that innovating in saturated spaces is too hard. Angels and VCs are typically quick to point out that a space is too populated to invest in and entrepreneurs should look to tread a less worn path. I’ve never particularly supported that logic, so it’s always nice to see a real-world example come along to illustrate why it’s not nearly as hard to innovate in saturated spaces as many will have you believe.

Innovation doesn’t have to be, and rarely is, a case of reinventing the wheel. Innovation can come in the form of a small shift-change in how a process or method is handled. The photo sharing app space is about as saturated as they come in the mobile world. However, almost all photo sharing apps are feed-focused and push-based. You take a photo, it gets added to some sort of user feed, and then you can share it out to your networks, friends, public, whatever.

Povio is a new photo sharing app that just launched a few weeks ago, and on the surface it’s not all that different than most other photo sharing apps, save for one exception. It’s not push-based at all. Povio users request photos from other users, and that’s how the photo sharing ‘conversation’ starts in Povio. Essentially, it’s by request or ping-focused, instead of push-focused. Povio users ping other users and let them know that they’d like to see a photo of theirs, and then they wait for that user to oblige and send it to them. It serves as an example of how a small change in behaviour can be a big differentiator in a crowded space.

Will Povio be a big hit? Hard to say. It’s not a very defensible concept and can easily be cloned or added as a feature to existing apps. It will all depend on how strong and how quickly it can attain a community of users. They were also recently selected to be part of Y Combinator’s latest cohort of startups, so that can only help.

Look before you leap, but don’t look for too long

Research is important. Planning is important. But at what point do you just ‘go for it’? And is it conceivable that too much research, plotting and planning puts you at a disadvantage, disconnecting you from the razor’s edge of innovation, creativity and thinking differently?

Don’t worry if you don’t know “absolutely everything” before starting out

Before they launched their car com­panies, Henry Ford and Karl Benz didn’t decide to first spend a decade trying to win the approval of prominent horse breeders or railway magnates. Same goes for the Wright Brothers.

When Google– the most successful advertising business in the history of the world– star­ted their company, their founders knew practically nothing about the inside workings of Madison Avenue. Sergey Brin and Larry Page most likely had zero inside knowledge about famous advertising titans like Leo Burnett, David Ogilvy, Lee Clowes, John Hegarty or Claude Hopkins. They were just a couple of twenty-something Stanford PhD students, who were far more interested in Internet search engines than they ever were in Nielsen Ratings, Proctor & Gamble or The Clio Awards. Which helps explain why, when the nor­mal, mainstream, industry-obsessed kids of around the same age were just landing their first East Coast internships or junior executive positions at advertising blue-chips like McCann’s, Lintas, DDB or Saatchi’s, Sergey and Larry were already well on their way to becoming billionaires.

I love this story about Bill Gates: Some years ago, when the company he foun­ded, Mic­ro­soft was at the height of its powers, he was giving a lec­ture to some college stu­dents. When the the Ques­tion & Ans­wers came along, a keen undergra­duate asked the ques­tion, “What advice would you give to a young per­son like me who wants to make a lot of money some day?”

Gates’ ans­wer was as won­der­ful as it was short: “For Good­ness’ sake, don’t do what I did. That money’s already been made by me.”


Incogna hits public beta

I want to give a shout out to my buddy Kris Woodbeck who just publicly launched his baby,! Congrats to Kris and the whole Incogna team who have been working extremely hard for quite a while on their revolutionary visual search engine. Kris is a super guy and I couldn’t be happier for him. If you haven’t tried searching for images on yet, go for it!

Mark Cuban’s rule #1 for building a company

Some sage advice for entrepreneurs from the Maverick entrepreneur himself:

Rule 1 Sweat equity is the best equity. “Taking money from someone else kills more start-ups than anything else does. Do everything you can to avoid taking money. If you must, your best prospects are potential customers. You have something they want, so if they invest in you, it can be a win-win situation.”

via Mark Cuban’s Three Rules for Building a Company

The Neverending Entrepreneur’s To-Do List

Most entrepreneurs can probably identify with this feeling. You know, that feeling of ‘to-do list defeat’ that sets in the moment your feet hit the bedside floor in the morning. No matter how hard you work, no matter how hard you burn the candle at both ends, you know that you will never get through your daily to-do list. There will always be unfinished business. Over time, that unfinished business gets carried over from one day to the next and sooner or later you start feeling like a mountain sherpa carrying the luggage of a growing crew and every time you look up at the peak it just never seems to get any closer, if anything, it slowly drifts further from view.

What I’ve just described is a mental battle, a war that plays out in the mind of many start-up entrepreneurs, and in most cases, it’s a war that won’t be won or lost. Just like that old adage ‘it’s not whether you win or lose, it’s how you play the game’ it rings just as true for us entrepreneurs. It’s how you manage both physically and mentally the neverending to-do list and the stress that results that will probably determine whether you are able to continue on your path, or get derailed by burnout or diminished health.

Over a decade ago I had aspirations of being a professional actor. I won’t go into the long and boring details about my trials and tribulations as a young thespian, but I did receive some precious advice along the way that to this day has stuck with me. While standing in an Oxford courtyard rehearsing Shakespeare on a cold rainy evening with a tutor, I began questioning why I was there, and would I ever ‘make it’ as an actor. Was I crazy for pursuing this in the first place? My tutor whose name shamefully escapes me thanks to father time (I think it was David Sterling), was an older man who had been ‘around the block’ and seen it all so to speak. He responded in a thick british drawl with words I’ll never forget…’You’re insane. Just admit it, get over it and start accepting the fact that you’re totally, absolutely insane. You’re insane! Nobody in their right mind would embark on being a professional actor knowing the odds of being successful. Look at you! Your lips are turning blue, you can barely get this sonnet down, you speak in a Canadian accent. Ha! Either leave now and go home a normal person, or stay here and start getting used to the idea that you’re completely nuts. But make no mistake about it, the sooner you admit your insanity the sooner you will put yourself in the right frame of mind to train to be a professional actor.

‘A hard dose of reality indeed, but it was exactly what I needed to hear. While I certainly didn’t ‘make it’ as a professional actor, that reality check helped me mentally unleash the emotional baggage of worry that I was carrying around and it really helped me go on to complete my training, receive my diploma, continue to work on my craft and go on to have some great experiences in the field of acting.

So what does this have to do with the neverending entrepreneur’s to-do list? Everything. Much like admitting I was insane for pursuing acting, sometimes as an entrepreneur you have to accept the fact that your to-do list is not likely to change much, by that I mean, you will always have a full list. Stop operating under the illusion that it will get shorter. As things get crossed off, more items inevitably are added. At some point, it’s just a good idea to accept that, and then find ways to manage the stress. Sure, that’s easy to say, hard to do. But I think the to-do list in our minds is probably weighing us down more than the actual to-do list itself. As entrepreneurs we’ve got to find ways to free up our mental space, even though the physical to-do list will always be longer than the hours in the day provide us to get the items done no matter how good a GTD’er or organize freak you may be. Resources are what they are, and in many cases, especially for start-ups, that’s not going to change in the immediate future.

Sometimes it’s just accepting that the timetable is what it is can help get your mind and body unstuck from the mud of stress, worry and to-do list overkill that can plague us at any twist or turn in business. I’m not suggesting you sit back in apathy and say ‘it is what it is’. In fact, it’s the complete opposite. It’s all about being productive and being able to continue to work crazy hard and crazy long hours. Because ultimately, that’s the most important thing. If burnout or poor health get the best of you, you lose and so does your venture. By accepting the fact that despite your best efforts, your to-do list will grow longer and some stuff may not get done exactly when you had planned, it can help you roll on and live to fight another day.