Entrepreneurship Haiku

bbv-haiku-copyright-say-hello-yellowI’ve been having some evening fun with poetry lately, using a very basic form of the Japanese Haiku. The basic form I’ve used is a series of words totaling 5 syllables, then 7, then 5, with each set of words on a different line.

It’s the kind of thing you may remember doing in grade or middle school, as a way for your English teacher to get you interested in trying your hand at poetry. For the subject matter, I’ve been using “startups” and “entrepreneurship,” rather than nature or everyday objects.

I like it, because it forces you – in the same way twitter’s 140 characters limit forces you – to reduce a thought or idea down to its essence. Here are three examples, which by the way, all fit as tweets!

“The unbeatable quality of persistence”

Grinding it out now.
Grinding it out yesterday.
Tomorrow? More please!

“How do you recognize a real MVP?”

Your valuation
matters not; nor does your app.
Only: Will they buy?

“Hiring versus contracting”
When do you outsource?
When cheaper, faster, non-core.
If not, forget it!
I hope to read some examples of your entrepreneurship or startup Haiku in the future!

Might As Well Face It…

BAILEYS FINAL DECK 0201.pptxI’ve just completed my eleventh book, Naturally Caffeinated: Addicted to Entrepreneurship. You can download it by clicking on this link.

It’s the eighth book that I’ve authored in whole or part. For the other three, I served as the producer and/or editor.

This book is different than the earlier ones in my career in two ways:

  1. It’s the first one made available as an Ebook first, with a print edition planned second (more on that later…), and
  2. It’s only the second book I’ve self-published.

The last time I self-published was five years ago, when I produced a book on Strategic Community Investment. Now, as then, I went with a small-format book for the express purpose of getting a core kernel of thought in distribution, to be later followed by an expanded, enhanced version.

NCtheCommunityIn fact, the plan this time was to do something a bit more collaborative.

So, I worked with an Austin-based publishing platform called Weeva to produce The Community Edition of the book.

For the next 60 days, until mid-August, we plan to solicit lessons learned, advice, and personal reflections to be contributed to The Community Edition from experienced entrepreneurs, as well as first-time founders, from Austin and around the world.

Then, in mid-September, Weeva will produce a beautiful, print version of the book, available for purchase…not unlike the one in the picture above.

What is the book about, with a title like Naturally Caffeinated: Addicted to Entrepreneurship, you may ask? For the answer to that question, I invite you to read “More About the Ebook” on its website.

In the meantime, suffice it to say, the title reflects a sentiment akin to that of Robert Palmer’s infamous GQ-rock hit, with alteration: “Might As Well Face It, I’m Addicted to Entrepreneurship.”

twitter-addicted-to

Pick a Title for My Entrepreneurship Ebook

coffe-stain-typographyI’m working on the draft of a new Ebook.

It’s a quick, easy read of lessons learned from my years as an entrepreneur…the reading length will likely be less than 100 pages.

Most people that know me a bit, know I enjoy coffee.

So, with that as a personal thematic backdrop, I’m narrowing in on titles that link back to coffee. Here are the top three candidates for the Ebook’s title:

  1. “Naturally Caffeinated: When You’re Addicted to Entrepreneurship”
  2. “I Like My Startup Like My Coffee: in the Black”
  3. “5 AM Clarity: Reflections from the Day’s 1st Cup of Coffee”

Consider this request to be a lot like the SXSW panelpicker, if you’ve ever participated in that polling.

Your choice will comprise about 1/3 of the decision making process, with another 1/3 being close advisors/sponsors, and a final 1/3 being my own judgment call. So, your vote definitely matters!

Just drop it into the comments below, tweet it to me, or email me using the Contact page form. Clever themes and variations, as well as wholly new suggestions, are welcome.

Thanks! And, I’ll let you know when it’s available…should be sometime in June.

Designing Incentives

There are those who believe that people’s attitudes “are-what-they-are” and can’t be changed.

Then, there are those, like me, that believe attitudes can be changed. I’m not claiming it’s easy.

But, I’m a big believer in the proposition that we are products of the combined influences of nature and nurture. And, with the proper tweaking of both, a person’s previously-held attitudes may be revised.

freak - attitudesA simple model that undergirds the way I think about these influences in action is the one in the figure.

Attitudes are most often formed and reinforced by behaviors.

Call them habits, daily routines, spiritual or work practices…whatever.

Behaviors, in turn, are formed and reinforced by structures. Call these the incentives, group norms, and other environmental factors, e.g., geographic location, architecture, apparel, and the like. If you want to change attitudes, change the structures.

This model was reinforced by a quick read of a book that’s been out for a bit called Think Like a Freak, by the authors of the similarly titled Freakonomics, Levitt & Dubner.

Much of the book addresses the discipline of designing the right incentive scheme to change behavior (and ergo, attitudes). Incentives, to my thinking, are powerful environmental “tools” that can be manipulated.

motivation carrotSome of the pearls of wisdom that Levitt & Dubner offer about incentives include:

  • Figure out what people really care about, not what they say they care about
  • Incentivize them on the dimensions that are valuable to them but cheap for you to provide
  • Pay attention to how people respond; if their response surprises or frustrates you, learn from it and try something different
  • Whenever possible, create incentives that switch the frame from adversarial to cooperative
  • Never, ever think that people will do something just because it is the “right” thing to do

One pearl that particularly spoke to my personal experience had to do with “gaming the system.” This was a constant problem for Appconomy, a venture-backed startup largely based in China in which I’m a founding shareholder.

Levitt & Dubner’s advice is to know that some people will do everything they can to game the system, finding ways to win that you could never have imagined. Thus, if only to keep yourself sane, try to applaud their ingenuity rather than curse their greed. To which I say “Amen!”

freak - bookThink Like a Freak closes with an instructive, albeit clear-eyed, section on the subject of “How to persuade people who don’t want to be persuaded.” In a nutshell, here are the six most important points they say to keep in mind:

  1. First, understand how hard persuasion is.
  2. Make clear, it’s not about me; it’s about you.
  3. Don’t pretend your argument is perfect.
  4. Acknowledge the strengths of your opponent’s argument
  5. Keep the insults to yourself
  6. Tell stories, they capture our attention, making them great for teaching

I like the story-telling advice. It’s an emotional buddy to the logical tool of incentive design…the nature “yin” to the nurture “yang.”

So, the next time you are thinking deeply about how to incentivize some sort of change – whether it’s with your teenager or a customer call-to-action – make sure to spend at least an equal amount of time on the storytelling part as the incentive design part. Good luck!

MoMA’s Curator Talks About the Future

I’ve been so busy, I’ve not yet had time to share any reflections on the 2015 SXSW Interactive sessions.

Among my favorites was Paolo Antonelli, curator of the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA).

Her keynote, entitled “Curious Bridges: How Designers Grow the Future” was, in my opinion, this year’s example of why I always plan to return to SXSW the next year.

If you wish, you can watch the entire, delightful and borderline provocative keynote, courtesy of the good people at Southby.

Much of her presentation revolved on the notion of “designing for the ‘in between’.” While I may be slightly off in my interpretation of her intent, this phrase seemed to be Paola’s way of referencing the essential role designers play connecting the imagined to the real.

Among the examples that she shared (and there were many) during her remarks, I was especially drawn to the ones that had bio- and nanotech references. This is largely due to one of the Powershift Group projects I’ve been supervising for the past six months, called Nano Global Corp.

Nano Global is focused on nanotechnology-based products into direct everyday consumer uses. These include skin protection, surface cleaning, safe food preparation, water and air purification, and many other practical applications.

Nanotech-based consumer products have the potential to improve the lives of tens of millions around the world. This is an especially urgent need, in the post-antibiotic age we’ve entered, where superbugs and fast-mutating germs are resistant to conventional treatments.

design - 1Back to Antonelli’s Southby keynote, there were several designer-inspired ideas that I found fascinating.

One was the pointy, polygon-shaped structure in the picture that almost looks like a building-sized virus itself.

But, far from being a virus, the structure is coated with nanoparticles that were meant to neutralize pollutants in the air.

In other words, it’s a giant air filter, sucking bad stuff out of the air.

Paola spent a significant portion of her time describing ways that science, design and architecture can work together. Artists want to share their art with the world; scientists want to make their science more useful.

Architecture provides a fascinating third way for these other two to come together in a way that is both pragmatic and beautiful.

design - 3Another more playful example that Antonelli mentioned was Moyasimon’s Tales of Agriculture.

This is a manga story about a boy who passionate about agriculture. In the story, the boy can see and talk to bacteria.

It’s a lovely way to represent what designers are actually thinking about, in terms of harnessing bacteria as worker bees that enable us to build a better future.

design - 2Taking it beyond bacteria, Antonelli closed with examples of the design of living beings.

One example she showed was Autodesk’s design of its own virus, in-vitro.

Another example she showed was MoMA’s latest acquisitions from the Wyss Institute, called organs-on-chip.

design - 4Organs-on-chip are designed to simulate how certain organs work, down to and including the interaction of nanoparticles and the body’s chemistry.

The point of these designs is very real: it is to create new, validated means of speeding new pharmaceuticals through their trials, to get life-saving and other beneficial drugs to market rapidly.

All-in-all, I found it a riveting SXSW keynote that will have me thinking about the possibilities of design, at least until SXSW 2016!

The Dark Web of New Venture Capital

Part 2 – Access Points and Attributes for Financing Sources That Are Hidden In Plain View

dark web - fishTwo weeks ago, I had the pleasure of being the featured speaker at the Houston Startup Grind, emceed by the fabulous Michele Price.

The topic – The Dark Web of Capital – came out of a brainstorming discussion Michele and I had about possible speaking themes for me that would be fresh or different for attendees.

It was a fun, interactive evening in Houston.

Afterwards, I posted a summary of some of the major categories for these sources of financing that I dubbed “hidden in plain view” in a Part 1 blog post on the Powershift Group website.

In this Part 2 post, I want to address the subject of access points to the dark web of capital. I also want to describe some of the attributes that make new ventures and their founders more accessible to these source of finance.

dark web - Time coverFirst, access points.

Unlike the requirement to download and run special software, like Tor, to gain access to the dark internet web, access to the dark web of capital is less clear cut. But, here are some starting points:

1 – Knowledge

Simple awareness of the sources, of course, is a first step towards accessing them. With better knowledge of the categories that we covered in Part 1, founders are better equipped to know where to look.

It’s a bit like Harry Potter, where simply knowledge that something like a port-key exists is the first step towards being aware to even look for them.

2 – Trusted Relationships

The cliché “it’s not what you know, it’s who” is especially relevant with dark web sources. Just accessing “weak ties” networks, like casual connections you have on LinkedIN, won’t cut it.

Since they are often less formal and may value their lack of public visibility, accessing dark web sources can require much “stronger ties” networks.

This means the presence of longer-term personal relationships that have been built directly with a participating investor or with a founder in whose companies they have invested.

3 – Get Outside

First-time founders can unintentionally insulate themselves from dark web capital sources by thinking they have access to all they need, through the staff and mentor networks of the incubator/accelerator program to which they gain admittance. It’s important that you be deliberate about going outside of your current network.

It’s kind of like getting into a habit of always going to the same neighborhood eating places. After a while, you’re not even seeing where others are eating. Doing that causes you to miss the long lines of hungry people coming out of unfamiliar locations. Instead, be intentional and watch where other are going; then follow them!

4 – Always Be Pitching

The best founders are like the best salespeople. They are always pitching, but are so good at it, you don’t even feel like you’re being pitched, even if you know you are.

This is Blink territory, wherein Malcolm Gladwell speaks about the minimum requirement of 10,000 hours of practice to achieve a basic level of mastery over an area.

1-Million-CupsPractice. Over-prepare. And, never miss an opportunity to pitch. Need a safe place to work on your skills? Try (or start!) the 1 Million Cups group in your community.

Now, on to attributes that lend themselves to greater success in accessing dark web capital.

Not long ago, Fred Wilson of Union Square blogged about three types of entrepreneurial ventures:

  • Lifestyle (which he also called “Cash flow” oriented ventures)
  • Indie (which he also called “Owner operated” ventures)
  • VC Fundable (self-evident)

Whereas traditional sources of new venture capital, from angels to institutions, favor VC fundable – hoping upon hope to discover the mythical “unicorn” (see: Uber) – dark web capital sources are far more comfortable and in some situations favor the lifestyle and indie ventures.

Venture builders like our firm Powershift Group, for example, often favor the owner-operated venture, where they can assign their principals to significant operational roles in the venture. What this means for the outside founder considering approaching them is that he or she needs to be very comfortable with the fit and chemistry with the venture builder’s team.

A documented pattern of good DIET and Exercise, which I discussed in a post about impact investing, is another collection of attributes that makes new ventures more qualified for dark web capital. Nothing novel here; just good, everyday habits for new ventures to live by.

On a final note, I suspect it’s clear by now that cataloging these sources of capital is an inexact science. In addition to the more obvious sources of dark web capital, there are many others. Examples include:

  • non-traditional syndicates (like Enable Impact),
  • contests & challenges (like Xprize), and
  • global entrepreneurship networks (like ANDE)

I’d love to hear from others on this topic and look forward to your questions and comments.

Periscope Behavioral Impressions

Or Look, We Can Use Our Phones to Do What Pornographers Figured Out on the Web 20 Years Ago”

I installed the Periscope app a couple of weeks ago and have been using it intermittently since then.

periscopeBasically, while the technology might be slightly more sophisticated, layering in a modicum of social networking, it’s the functional equivalent of a live, handheld web cam.

Here are a few initial observations, mostly behavioral:

1 – When you hold your phone in front of you, while you’re walking or talking, you can’t avoid conveying the impression that you are filming. You might as well hold out a film marker in front of you, snap it shut, and yell “action!” because it equally attracts the natural curiosity of people that are walking towards you.

Thus, unlike a go-pro or body cam, which can film more subtly, the act of holding your phone in front of you is explicit. So, it’s harder to catch people in their natural states.

2 – When live broadcasting, I felt compelled to narrate the action, like a program host. On longer segments, I found the need to re-announce the subject matter of the broadcast every five or ten minutes, like Terri Gross does on NPR’s “Fresh Air” just before she takes a station break.

3 – The days and times that I had the most organic Periscope viewers were weekend mornings and weekday afternoons.

4 – It seems more viewers tuned in for lifestyle ephemeral, rather than purposeful, business-y broadcasts. My most watched broadcast was while enjoying a beer on the rooftop deck of our office building with a great view of the Texas State capital during which I answered questions about Austin.

The second most watched was crossing a bridge over Lady Bird Lake in central Austin while viewing the flower planters, shortly after SXSW 2015.

5 – I tried a couple of experiments to attract scheduled viewers, from my Facebook friends and Twitter followers, but they were dismal failures (the experiments, not my friends/followers). My guess is that I didn’t offer a valuable enough incentive for people to schedule or remember to view the broadcast.

6 – I also tried to sneak in a live broadcast of former President Bill Clinton’s remarks from the Four Seasons when he was a guest dinner speaker for a China-US Private Investment Summit in Austin. My guess is that there were cell and wifi jammers in place that significantly slowed or prohibited broadcasting, because Periscope flat refused to work.

The app design itself is fairly simple and clean, which I expect to evolve via a rather constant series of tweaks as it gets more widely used. If I had one feature-function beef, it would be about archiving your broadcasts.

periscope-screengrabsAs best I can tell, when you save your broadcasts, it doesn’t keep a complete archive of all prior broadcasts available to you…just your most recent one or two.

They disappear from your stream in a day or two, after which all you have left to fall back on is the recording (if you choose to save them) of the video on your mobile device.

However, your mobile device recording is plain vanilla, i.e., it lacks the Periscope-enhanced information with the viewers’ handles, their questions, or the heart streams that they gave you while broadcasting, which is a bummer.

I suspect that may change in the future, hinting at the kind of functionality they will “turn on” for subscribing users, to monetize the freemium version.


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