A little bit of everything

Category: Business

I confirmed I’m an entrepreneur (by working for someone else)

For the first time in more than 12 years I’ve accepted a job… and the funny thing is that it just confirmed that I am an entrepreneur.

I was 23 years old when I got out of college. As I landed my first job I didn’t realize there were other options besides getting a job working for someone else. The option of being self-employed was there, but it wasn’t normal and it didn’t strike me.

Not long after starting my first job I began to understand that I wanted to do more. I wanted to decide more. I wanted to build more (which is a curious choice of words since I’m a trained civil engineer and I was working as a construction manager, in a construction company by then). That said, I quit and started my own company. And that has been the story of my life for 12+ years. Start businesses. Build things. Face new challenges. Do it again.

Last year, when Limetree crashed and burned, I was invited to join Premium Minds. I guess I should say I was offered a job, but it felt more like an invitation. Like when a friend invites you to go to her house for dinner.
“Come and join us. We do great stuff. We have fun. It will be great to have you here.”

The funny thing is this job offer didn’t have a “job” attached.

As I found out, Premium Minds doesn’t hire people for a job. Premium Minds invites people to join the gang. And that feels good.

As I “joined the gang”, I felt the need to answer the same question several times (many of those times to myself): “What about that entrepreneurial spirit?”

What I learned during these past few months was the spirit does not depend on the ownership… It depends on what you’re doing; with whom; and how much you are motivated to do it.

At Premium Minds I found a team of people that share my mindset about some fundamental values:
– be true (to yourself and to others);
– be happy and help others with their happiness;
– be honest (and don’t trade it for anything);
– be responsible for what you do, but give others a break on small mistakes you know everybody does.

What I learned was that these values are enough for me to want to build something with these guys, for as long as they want to build something too (and they do!). And if whatever comes out of this is not completely mine, it’s ours, and that’s even better when you think about it.

That’s the reason behind the big challenge we posed to ourselves in 2015: let’s build a product together. Let’s create something that will make us proud, happy and fulfilled.

This wasn’t something completely new at Premium Minds. We do have a creative day every month focused on experimenting and trying different things. We have found it to be very good for both personal development and for morale (people like to do different and funny things).

Now we have a services company deciding to actually build a product. We began with Innovation Cast to show us the way forward: what to build; how; and to whom.

We’re just beginning and we don’t know how it will end. If nothing else I’m sure it will be a great learning experience for everybody involved.

As for myself, this experience has assured me I’m an entrepreneur: I want to build things. I want to change the world. I want to have fun doing it.

I found a place to keep doing it!

(Originally posted here)

Hiring for startups…

A startup is not a regular business and it definitely is not the small equivalent to a big company.
Entrepreneurs get it (sometimes the hard way) but, many times, they face several problems related to hiring and retaining talent.

This happens for several reasons and it’s not easy to solve the problem. From my part, I think that a good first step is to read this article and make sure that everybody you hire for your startup also reads it.
Hope it helps…

Entrepreneurship with kids

Most things you can read on entrepreneurship lead you to believe that it’s an activity for young adults, at their twenties, without kids, or compromises whatsoever.

There’s evidence that’s not always the case (although it often is).

There’s no doubt that it’s easier to commit yourself to a new creation if you don’t have chains holding you, or if there are not “stiff” dinner hours, or diapers to be changed. On top of that, the younger one is, the least he/she has to loose so it’s easier to bet everything… And, usually, as people grow they become more savvy and less prone to jump into the unknown… believe me, when I say being an entrepreneur is pretty much jumping to the unknown, not knowing if the pool will have water once you land.

However, you don’t have to be young, single, with no compromises to begin a start up. Some people might even argue that you’re better at it when you’re not such a “loose guy”, because you do have a lot to loose and that will make you outsmart yourself, push your limits, think twice but think better about your moves. Others would add that if you’re older, you’re wiser (at least you hope so), and therefore your chances to succeed will be enhanced. I’m not sure if that’s the case or not, but I began some neat things at a not so young age, with kids, and compromises…lots of them. And I’m loving it!

You will fail…

It is still the same old talk about pursuing your dream. You hear it everywhere. People talk about it. Some mock about it. Other’s quote the great leaders and entrepreneurs who were successful pursuing their dreams. Usually you don’t hear about it from the negative side. From your side. Beginning by the reasons why you will fail.

Larry Smith s a professor of Economics at the University of Waterloo in Canada. His work has helped for several entrepreneurs to develop their ideas, business models and overall companies. Last fall, he made a great presentation in a TEDx Talk and that was his pitch: “You will fail!”. Make sure not to miss it.

Don’t play against the odds

Some friends and I have a betting pool for the football games, every weekend.

One of us, chooses 10 games each week, writes them down, and all the others bet on the results for each weekend. It’s a very straightforward competition, which allow us to joke around and to mock at each others, bragging on our superior football knowledge. It actually reminds me of my childhood days. Back then, there was this guy in my building who did the same thing for the european competition’s games.

Back to my current betting pool: no money involved; the only thing involved is pride…

As usual, everybody actually tries to figure out the result of every game. And that, more often than not, leads to one consequence: people tend to bet according to 1) their wishes; 2) the result each team got the week before.

On one side, we (yes, I am always tempted to this option too) want our team to win; we always want our rivals to loose. But as a consequence we are betting on what we would wish to happen, not on what we think will happen. Usually, the outcome is worst when we bet this way.

On the other side, we are pretty much biased by the previous week result. Not because we develop an advanced statistical tools that will help us analyze the trends on each team’s results. But because we believe that the outcome of the game this week is somehow related with the results that happened last week. And although on the long term there might be a trend, there are better ways to establish that trend than to consider this week results will be some sort of emulation of what happened the week before.

This year I decided to play with a different strategy. I played (almost) exclusively with the odds. I didn’t care what were my expectations for the game. What were my preferences. What were the results of the previous week or weeks. I just looked at the two teams involved in each game and analyzed what would be the most common result. I said I played almost exclusively with the odds, because there were exceptions: the derbies. Those games against our arch-rivals. On those games I was not able to bet on anything but my team’s victory. Even if that was not the most common outcome.

And I won! Everyone else let their emotions ruin their rationale. And so, many times they failed their prognostics on games for which they knew the most probable outcome was not the one they were betting on.

My conclusion? It keeps happening in business. People act, manage, decide, based on the outcome they would like would happen, and not on the outcome that rationally they think will happen. And, obviously, they miserably fail. On the other hand, entrepreneurs, businessman and managers who base their actions not on impulses or hunches, but on judgement and sagacity, make the most out of their business. Let’s hope we can do it 🙂

Delivering happiness by being happy yourself

I didn’t know Tony Hsieh or Zappos. Actually, I have never heard of them before. But last year, I was surfing the web and found a video with an interview of some crazy guy to Barbara Walters on 20/20. I became curious by the strange business concepts he was pushing forward during the interview, and it lead me to buy this guy’s book the next day. And I read it in 24 hours.

Obviously, the book was “Delivering happiness” and this was my introduction to Tony and his very different approach to company culture, business strategy and entrepreneurial mindset. The book is not great in terms of literary competency, so no Nobel Prize in the vicinity, but the concepts and the ideas amazed me. I guess you can tell that, along with the book, I bought Tony’s concepts about businesses and life. And by “I bought”, I really mean it took me.

When I first saw the interview I was skeptical (to say the least) about this managerial approach. Actually, what interested me the most were not all the concepts in themselves (which I though were just another hype), but the fact that someone made a successful company in spite of them! More than that, something was there, because Amazon decided to acquire that company for a billion dollars (and this was 3 years ago…).

So about the book. First the critiques: as I told you before, it is not a literary master piece as Tony Hsieh himself will inform you in the Introduction. But it does the trick. On the other hand its rhythm is not constant. What I mean is, half the book is an auto-biography. A cool one, about an Asian-American, with an entrepreneurial spirit, business driven from cradle, who wanted to do nice things and enjoy himself while developing his own businesses. Then, you have a second part, which is the implementation of the business philosophy he was developing. And he did so, applying all his concepts at Zappos.com and succeeded. And so far, so good. The book made sense. The organization of it was logical, too. But there is a third part, on I couldn’t figure out as part of the same book. It was a list of things companies should do (according to Tony) to become great and how to do it. But this feels kind of weird inside this book. It almost feels like a strange body that is not correctly fitted in there. But that’s enough with the critiques, otherwise you’ll think the book is not good at all. Which is not true! It is a good book and it is definitely worth reading, because the ideas of this guy are pretty interesting!

Tony argues that a company should run the extra mile for its customers. And that means actually doing whatever it takes to make sure the client gets satisfied. Even delivering a pizza to someone, although your company is about selling shoes… but if that’s what it takes for that person to be happy, you should do it. It’s pretty much assuming the concept of “defaulting to yes” that many authors (Guy Kawasaky et al) are proclaiming but giving the next step and, not only saying yes, but doing yes.

On the other hand, Tony says that if you want a company to completely commit to its customers, you have to make sure that company has its staff committed with each other and with the company itself. And to do so, you have to make sure your employees are happy. Completely happy. And ready to do the extra effort for the company. And they should do it because it’s not going to fell like an effort at all. To achieve it, Tony argues that all the staff should be as a family. And, yes families have problems, and arguments, and fights, but people try to keep it and solve it within the family. And as if that was not enough, he proclaims that excellency (in terms of this concept of the company as a family) is only achieved when employees want to spend all their time with other co-workers.

Bringing all this together, Tony Hsieh built Zappos.com and made it the most successful online shoes retailer by far. And it was so successful that in 2009 Amazon decided to acquire it for a sum around 1 billion dollars… Yes, a load truck of money, right?

I’d say that’s a pretty convincing argument about, at least, giving these ideas a chance. In the end, they might take you. They sure took me.

In the book you’ll find these ideas, but better thought and better explained (it took him a couple more characters too…). Don’t loose the interest because I didn’t argue for these concepts well enough. He does it way, way better. And it’s by far more interesting, because it’s full of funny episodes of his own experience. So, definitely worth to read.

 

…and it’s becoming flatter and flatter everyday

The World is Flat was one of the first books I’ve read on the changes produced in the world by all the possibilities of the modern age and the web 2.0. Here you can find the 10 flatteners or, according to Thomas Friedman, the conditions that allowed the world to become flat. On the other hand Mr. Friedman also explains how those 10 flatteners work together to allow the world to become flat.

It is quite common nowadays to read or listen the idea that today, as never before, it is easier to produce whatever you want, wherever it is easier, when it’s cheaper and the most appropriate way. You can design something in Italy, define the standard in Germany, produce it in China, establish the support in India, market in the US and then sell it all over the world!

Obviously this idea is not new anymore. And it Thomas Friedman was not the first one to notice all these features and situations. However, his book has three features that put it above all the others on the same subject.

First it is well organized and structured. It is very easy to read and comprehend all the concepts and ideas Mr. Friedman puts forth.

On the other hand, Mr. Friedman’s experiences are very well depicted in the book and he can actually fit them very well on each of the concepts creating a more interesting and entailing story for the reader.

Last but not the least Mr. Friedman’s writing is very easy to follow and entertaining and with very good rhythm.

Ok, I’m not going to lie. I haven’t read the latest edition, I read the original “The World is Flat”. The current one is a new and revised edition with new chapters and updated with new stories and examples. I’m anxious to read it too, because if the two new chapters are half as good as the previous 15, the book is still amazing.

If you want to buy the book, just follow the link on the image bellow.

Instagram and the bubbles…

Yesterday I was talking with a friend of mine about the internet bubble.

Is there a bubble? What’s causing it? What effects of it are you seeing? Why do you think it’s a bubble?

Obviously the topic came to the conversation because of Instagram… There’s nothing more spoken of these days than the grand acquisition by Facebook. And we were coming around some of the same questions that are being formulated by many:

Is Instagram worth that truck filled with money? Do you know they don’t even have a business model? At least one everybody can see?

What the hell does FB wants Instagram for? Is it for the mobile? Is it just to keep it out of someone else’s hands?

And we discussed lots of other deals done or not done, that changed or should have changed the internet, the way we do businesses, and our world as we know it. And how many of them didn’t.

And we kept discussing if people were once again looking at the internet and all “net related” businesses as the new Nirvana. And wether internet traffic or “web” traffic was being over considered and over evaluated.

And hence came the question:

It’s all about marketing, commercials and advertising. – my friend said, and continued – For the past decade or so, commercial money is ruling the world. Brands make products and want to sell them. To do so they need to advertise. And they look for the best place to do it, where the most people are. And that’s the internet. Therefore, whatever the bubble is – and he didn’t understand the Instagram acquisition – , it won’t affect the ad industry or the internet businesses based on ads. Brands will have products to sell and will have to sell them to people, wherever they are. And whatever happens people will still be there (on the internet).

I don’t find it to be so straightforward. And this is my euphemism for: I don’t agree…

I think there’s definitely a bubble. Although I think the bubble is exactly because / around / with the commercial / advertising industry. And therefore, yes, I think when the bubble bursts, it will definitely explode on the hands of all those who where solely basing their business on the ads and commercial strategy.

The free strategy, which was so much in vogue on the internet in the past few years, might be good for the few successful ones. But it’s not the solution as a whole for the content producers around the world. The concept that I can offer whatever product I have, and in return I’ll have millions of users doesn’t strike me. And that I can “distill” those millions of users in dollar bills and monetize my business… doesn’t look like a very good model to me. And yes, there will always be those who live on that, and can build a business on those assumptions. But the majority won’t. If you create something (a product, a content, a service) it costs you, and most of the times it has to be paid for. Directly! If nothing else, and if you can’t sell your product to anyone, maybe that’s a clue your product is not that good after all… I’m not saying you have to charge for everything. I’m not saying some free goods cannot be the lure for other stuff your selling. That’s different than just offering everything for the sake of the number of users…

Yes, there are great examples of some who succeeded doing the opposite… Yes, Alexander Magnum conquered half the world, and look at what happened to most of those who tried to do the same after him…

Although there are many critiques to the free model these days, one can still found several examples of businesses gurus making the apology of these model. And many of the over evaluated social networks or pseudo networks are being built (and financed) on this assumption: if you have a large base of people following you, you can “sell” those numbers to ad companies and that will monetize your project.

I have my doubts… but then again, what do I know about this, right?

What do you think? Let me know…

Buzzword Bingo

The idea is not mine. I placed an order from moo.com, and when it came it brought a “meeting companions collection”.

I’m not a big fan of meetings. That doesn’t mean I don’t value face-to-face, I do, but usually what people do in a meeting can be done without the physical presence of the attendees, or at least without most of them. On the other hand, meetings are one of the most expensive operations within a business. Just sum the cost of all those present at a 2 hour meeting and you’ll get what I’m saying.

Nonetheless, sometimes I do find myself in meetings. Oh boy, and now I long for those.

One of the games moo.com proposed on their “companion kit” is very simple. You pick a card with several words (like the one in the picture) and during the meeting you check the words as you hear them. And then it’s just like playing bingo. There are even some great variations proposed, like shouting “awesome” when someone says the magic word “monetize”.

I’ve loved this game, and I am looking forward for the first time I’ll be able to use it. My guess is, if you’ll attend “new economy” meetings in the next few days, take this card and you’ll love it.

Come back when you do so. I’ll love to hear the stories 🙂

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Social networks and Pinterest

Everyday a new social network comes into our world. Some of us don’t even look at what it means, others look at it and try to understand what does it mean (business wise).

What really interests those who look at these new social networks – and try to figure out which ones will be here in one year, which ones will be sold by one billion dollars or which ones will just be abandoned – is what these new “things” can do for us: the person or the business.

Pinterest is the new big thing. Or at least it seems like it. As someone was telling me the other day, “whatever business model you can think of, Pinterest is able to implement it. It will definitely work out for them.” Maybe so…

One of the big discussions is should sellers attach (or not) the price tag to their pins? Mashable refers a study from Pinreach about this.

But what struck me was that options like this might not only harm or boost whoever chooses to attach a price tag to it. If everybody begins attaching the price tag, Pinterest will become a marketplace, right? And my guess is that’s not what people like about it…

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