March 11, 2013 (5 weeks ago)
Posts Tagged ‘Startups’
February 4, 2013
This was a nice little gig: A large print for Bizspark Canada.
1. This is my first Microsoft gig for a while [Bizspark is part of their massive startup outreach program], so it felt good to be back in the ol’ saddle again.
2. This piece is a riff on a familiar theme of mine, that a nation is only as good as its startup culture etc. As we see all the economic crap happening in places like Spain and Greece (Unemployment between 25%-60%, depending on the age group!), it’s somethng we urgently need to teach our leaders, by any means necessary. And yes, gapingvoid likes having clients who agree with us.
3. Though I love doing my more highbrow, introspective fine art schtick, I also love the more extrovert stuff for the office wall. Especially offices that belong to interesting folk doing interesting stuff, like the Bizspark gang. This “tense duality” between the inner and outer parts of existence is where the action is. Too much of either one would be BEYOND tedious IMHO…
Thanks to Mark Gagne and the rest of the Bizspark Canada team for making it happen. Rock on.
January 31, 2013
I drew this cartoon because a recent story in the news made me sad:
A lively and popular figure of the start-up scene, Jody Sherman commited suicide.
I didn’t know the guy, but we had mutual friends, like Jason Calacanis and Tony Hsieh.
Jason summed it up well: “And it seems like folks are not ready to talk about that issue just yet. Which I can understand.”
This is the second startup suicide in a month, after poor ol’ Aaron Swartz. We are genetically programmed to have our our tiny brains fried by the suicide of somebody we care about; writing about it well is impossibe at the best of times. But here are some of my own meagre, insufficient thoughts:
1. My deepest condolences to Jody’s family, esecialy his wife and children. The sorrow must be horrible, simply horrible. I am so sorry, truly.
2. Once we’ve made our millions, retired and gotten old and decrepit, hey, then DEATH is not so scary an idea, but when one is still in one’s prime… Most of us doing the start-up thing are still in our prime, so natually DEATH is amazingly strange and alien to us.
3. The start-up life, for all the time we spend glorifying it, is a very tough road. Again, Jason says it well:
Perhaps we owe it to these three amazing humans to examine if the pressures of being a founder, the pressure of our community’s relentless pursuit of greatness, in some way contributed to their deaths?
I’ve always believed that being a founder is an unhealthy pursuit at times, and few have disagreed — certainly not those who have done it. Read any biography of a successful founder and you’ll find collateral damage around — and certainly in — those individuals.
Startups are a full-contact sport. This is a good time for all of us to pause and think about why we’re doing this. And the impact it’s having on us and the people around us.
4. Me and my friends in the sart-up scene aren’t spring chickens anymore, for the most part. We’re the old guard now. And as Karma catches up with us and the hard choices we made, our deaths are going to start getting a lot more common.
5. As I’m fond of saying, anything worth doing will cost you your life, eventually. Best make sure it’s worth it, make sure it’s something your deepest self actually wants.
6. Yes, your deepest self, not just your glib, sexy, bullshit self.
7. This is it. Fight like hell. Godbless.
April 7, 2012
PART ONE: THE CONVERGENCE.
So today there was this big convergence of things I’d been thinking about lately, including:
1. The cartoon (pictured above) that we sent out in Friday’s newsletter.
2. The “Jiro Dreams Of Sushi” article I posted Thursday and the whole “Mastery” kick I’ve been riffing on recently.
3. Sir Ken Robinson’s amazing 2006 Ted Talk on how schools kill creativity.
4. Seth Godin’s fabulous, free 30,000-word manifesto on education, “Stop Stealing Dreams”.
6. This week’s good news for Dave McClure and 500 Startups raising $50 million for their startup incubator.
7. Being in the same room while Babson’s President, Len Schlesinger interviewed CNN senior political analyst, Dave Gergen in Boston a few months ago. Gergen’s advice to students? “Learn how to invent.”
8. A tweet I made earlier: “I’m not sure if America is ready to be a second-rate nation quite yet”.
9. The appalling 50% youth unemployment in places like Spain or Greece. Will we Americans be seeing the same one day? Horrifying!
A lot of people worldwide are relying on America not becoming, like I said, a second-rate nation. Even some of the people who don’t particularly like America.
And how is that going to happen, exactly? How are we going to remain at the top of our game, or at least, make a damn good show of it?
The same way we’ve always done it: by creating new, interesting products and ideas that people need, want, value and are inspired by.
PART TWO: THE PREVIOUS TWO AGES OF EDUCATION.
To massively over-simplify, there were two main phases in the history of education, pre-industrial and industrial. The first meant only the clergy and the sons of the elite were properly educated. Then along comes the second, industrial phase, which meant universal education on a mass-scale, that emerges along with the “Age of Reason”, the industrial revolution and the whole modern era.
As Seth Godin famously likes to talk about, in this second, industrial phase, schools became little more than factories, churning out young people educated enough to work in bigger factories one day. Whether we’re talking blue collar or white collar, it didn’t matter, it’ still a factory job, basically. You’re still a cog in the factory machine, basically. This factory-model was perfect for when the factory was still the cornerstone of the industrial economy. A factory-centered model for a factory-centered world. This was true whether in elementary school in Iowa, or Harvard Business School in Cambridge, your reality was the factory because your career was the factory. Own the factory, work in the factory, live near the factory, become the factory. Factory, factory, factory…
And of course, this factory-centric model which worked fine for a hundred-plus years is now broken. We can no longer compete long-term that way. Just owning a factory doesn’t give us the same edge it used to, the same economic security, as anyone who’s ever tried competing lately in the global economy has been finding out.
A new model is needed.
PART THREE: WE ARE READY FOR THE THIRD AGE OF EDUCATION: THE CREATIVE AGE.
Personally, I had a pretty good formal education, where I learned the basics– reading, writing, math, a bit of science, history, languages and a wee smattering of the arts. I learned to study and pass tests. Like most students, I learned how to learn, basically. I leaned how to work in a foctory, basically.
I don’t think that’s enough anymore, as the THOUSANDS UPON THOUSANDS of under-employed and unemployed university graduates with good grades in Europe and America will testify. They passed all their tests fine, they all ticked off the right boxes… and yet, look at them now, poor things.
Kids in the future are simply not going to leave school with this big, bumper crop of plum jobs waiting for them to fill, not like they used to. In the future, kids will leave school and increasingly be expected to create their own viable realities.
Like David Gergen alluded to, these young adults will be expected not just to do the work, but expected to ACTUALLY invent something. Create something, not just obey orders, not just fulfill some sort of social role.
And somehow, we have to teach our schools how to teach our kids exactly that. It’s not going to be easy.
4. HOW DO YOU BEST PREPARE FOR THE CREATIVE AGE?
As I see it, there are basically two ways, at least if you go at it from a college-age, entrepreneurial, startup mentality. One is the more risky path advocated by my wonderfully lucid friend, Jason Calacanis, to forget college and instead, “Spend Your College Tuition on Being Mentored and Starting a Company.” That’s probably what I would have chosen for myself, nowadays. That, or apprenticing for a master at something, the way English tailors learn their craft, or how the advertising legend, Dave Trott used to hire kids right off the street in London and give theme a chance at writing ads (Hence the earlier Jiro/Mastery reference]. Learning on the job, as it were. The street-fighter’s approach. Tough, brutal, intense, but nonetheless a first-class education in the University of Life.
The second way is what I see Len Schesinger trying to do at Babson.… shaking things up… evolving the idea of school (business school, anyway) as not just a place of learning, but also as a place of DOING.
Where. Stuff. Gets. Done.
In the real world. Here and now.
Where students don’t just learn about running businesses, but are expected to actually start running businesses and making them viable. All while still getting good grades. It’s a pretty intense curriculum, but hey, the best students seem to thrive at it.
Michael Dell’s company was started in a dorm room. Ditto with Mark Zuckerberg. Hey, my cartooning career was, too.
This is the idea of a college as not just a seat of learning, but an incubator, of sorts. These days, business schools like Babson aren’t just competing with Harvard or Wharton, they’re competing with Y Combinator and 500 Startups. The most talented kids in the country aren’t waiting around for the grownups in the ivory towers to get their act together. They’re already inventing their own futures; they’re in a hurry.
I don’t have all the answers. All I know is that it’s already happening. It’s already begun, the genie is already out of the bottle… and it’s damn exciting to watch.
[PS: This blog post only took me a short morning and a couple of hundred words to write. Ideally, it would’ve taken me a couple of years and enough words to fill an entire book. I’m sorry if it’s incomplete, I’m sorry if there are massive holes everywhere. It’s a vast minefield of a subject that’ll take the cleverest people in the land more than a few decades to work out fully. But like I inferred, it still damn exciting to think about. I just hope we’re all up for it.]
March 23, 2012
Another video our new company, Social Object Factory did for Rackspace at SXSW..
A sea of little red startup folk, piling into the #StartupBus, something they sponsor.
“Because the world needs more Awesome, the world needs more Startups.” A simple enough thought, one I happen to think is very, very true.
Without startups, this world really doesn’t have much of a future. At least, not one I would want.
March 22, 2012
“Because the world needs more Awesome, the world needs more Startups.”
What astounds me is how quickly we turned it around. A couple of days from getting the first phone call, in the can. BOOM! Just like that.
Compare that to the traditional ad agency model– it would’ve taken ten times as long and cost ten times as much. Not to mention, a lot of strategy meetings and endless Powerpoint slides.
We live in incredible times…
Congrats to the team on a splendid effort! Rock on.
May 19, 2011
[One of my favorite recent “Social Objects”: a cartoon I did for Rackspace.]
The Social Object, in a nutshell, is the reason two people are talking to each other, as opposed to talking to somebody else. Human beings are social animals. We like to socialize. But if think about it, there needs to be a reason for it to happen in the first place. That reason, that “node” in the social network, is what we call the Social Object.
For as long as I’ve been involved with the Internet, I’ve seen the SAME OLD DISCONNECT appear again and again AND AGAIN i.e. the disconnect between how the Internet ACTUALLY works and how the social media marketing dorks like to PRETEND how it works.
Case in point: From Steve Jones’ blog:
Today I received an e-mail that said “Like us on Facebook and win”. Later in the day I walked into a store and on the door was a sign that said “Like us on Facebook”.
That’s like Billy Joel asking me to buy his album. It is like walking into a party and having someone say “Be my friend and I’ll buy you a drink”. In a word, it is pathetic.
Damn right it’s pathetic.
Note to Social Media Marketing Dorks: The hard currency of the Internet is not Facebook “Likes” or Twitter “Retweets”, as flavor-of-the-month as they might be. By themselves, they’re worthless.
The hard currency of the Internet is “Social Objects”.
i.e. Social Objects for people to SHARE MEANINGFULLY with other people.
You’re either creating them or you’re not. And if you’re not, you will fail, end of story.
March 2, 2011
You being my client and all, I thought now would be a good time to let you know my current thinking:
You love startups. You live and breathe making them happy. You live and breathe trying to be helpful to them. You live and breathe “Fanatical”.
Sure, other companies offer the same kind of hosting that you do– Amazon being the best known example.
But it’s your particular brand of “Fanatical” that permeates your culture… THAT is what makes you unique; THAT is what your competitors DON’T have; THAT is your secret weapon.
And the minute you lose that, of course, is the minute you start to die.
Not everybody reading this is going to believe what I’ve just said. Some will remain skeptical, both inside and outside your company. Frankly, I don’t care. I’ve been working with y’all long enough to know that I’m speaking the truth.
“We Love Startups.” That is your mantra. That is your line in the sand.
And now you’re going to have to live it. Now that the line has been drawn, I’m never going to allow you to take those words back. Nor will anyone else. Ever. Nor should you.
“We Love Startups.” That is what the startup community must know about Rackspace. They must know it AND believe it. All of them. That is the mission.
[PS: Note to Rackers: If your boss will let you, feel free to use the cartoon in your email signature. Spread the love etc.]
October 18, 2010
A damn good question, Robert. I thought it would make a good piece of art, hence the cartoon above. More specifically, I thought it would make a good image to go on the back of a Rackspace business card.
Rackspace is a big company (3,000 employees), but not big enough where they can no longer remember when they were a small company. So maybe it’s better to start a conversation (which is what handing out a business card does, ideally) with a pertinent question, rather than the usual “Here’s why you should buy our stuff” shpeel…
September 17, 2010
To find out more about them, Techcrunch wrote a really good piece about them last year.
“The Apple/Google Voice fiasco just got more interesting. Toktumi, a startup that lets small businesses build office-caliber phone systems with their mobile phones and computers, just had its application Line2 approved by Apple — nearly three months after it was originally submitted. The powerful service allows business employees to assign two phone numbers to their iPhone: one that they can give to family and friends, and another that can be given to business contacts, with features that allow for call filtering and a professional-grade voicemail system. But it’s also notable for its many similarities to Google Voice, an application that Apple has kept out of the App Store for months now.
“The story so far: late last July, Apple abruptly pulled all third party Google Voice applications from the App Store, explaining that they somehow were duplicating the iPhone’s native functionality. Later that day, we broke the news that Google’s official Google Voice client had been barred from the App Store, sparking a media storm and a FCC inquiry into Apple’s rationale for the ban.”
It’s basically a second line for your phone– your iPhone, in particular.
I’ve never been much of a VoIP geek, so why did I get involved?
It was a simple little factoid that got my interest:
The Line2 service costs $14.95 per month. Not a huge amount, but costly enough when you consider that Google Voice is free. Line2 has a first month trial offer, which allows you to try it out for free. After that, they start charging. Fair enough.
So how many people start signing on at $14.95, once their free trial expires? Five percent? Ten percent? That’s what I was guessing…
Nope. Thirty percent.
Thirty percent! I thought that was huge. They must be doing something right etc.
The second reason is purely intellectual. As many bloggers have been spouting on for a while now (including me), we are in the early days of the largest communication revolution in the history of the planet. VOIP is in the forefront of this revolution, so getting involved should give me a front row seat. And we cartoonists need interesting stuff to keep our brains occupied etc.
I have no idea where this is going; I’m just along for the ride. Hopefully a Smarter Conversation will come out of it in the end. Watch this space. Rock on.
[Bonus link: Last March, Mashable did a good piece on Line2 as well, including the video interview above.]
February 17, 2010
Mike’s company is basically in the business of helping small startups either make or find more money, by whatever means necessary. His website explains all…
Why do people do startups? Because they want to be “rock stars”, or something like that. They have that certain drive– or if they don’t have it, they’re in big trouble. So I tried to create something that empathized with that.
Because the world is theirs’. At least, it’s certainly more “theirs’” than for the people who just turn up every day at the office, with no other reason than the steady paycheck.
Mike was a great client, and fun to work for. He tells me his cube grenade (which he put on the back of his business cards) was a big hit at the recent TED conference. That made my day.
No, it really did…
July 16, 2008
Four years ago in “The Hughtrain” I published the cartoon above, with the following thought beneath it:
: There’s only one thing harder than starting a new business: Re-inventing an old one.
Start-ups are fine and dandy, most people reading this will know all about them.
But what about Start-Agains? Are they an exercise in futility or a tremendous opportunity?
THOUGHT: The future of advertising is clients increasingly asking their agencies to help re-invent not just their brands, but their actual companies. The future is agencies being increasingly unable to deliver on this.
Out of this wreckage a new industry will emerge…
So how do companies, businesses, brands etc re-invent themselves?
Big, big question. Worth a fortune to know the answer.
Actually, the answer’s pretty simple: The same way humans re-invent themselves.
I know. It shouldn’t be that simple, but it is.
1. I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. I like the entry, though four years later, I’m not sure how comfortable I still am with the statement, “Actually, the answer’s pretty simple: The same way humans re-invent themselves. I know. It shouldn’t be that simple, but it is.“
Corporate re-invention may be in simple in retrospect, but when it’s happening in real time it’s a tough, nasty, brutal business [Ask IBM if you don’t believe me]. Not for the faint of heart. But that’s what makes it so damn interesting. And potentially lucrative.
2. In the early 2000’s I had gotten quite disillusioned with traditional, Madison Avenue advertising, the industry I had entered when I left college [Though let’s be honest, it had never thought that highly of me, either, but that’s a story for another day].
Thankfully, with the advent of The Cluetrain, blogs and what later went on to be called “Web 2.0″, it seemed a new world order was emerging. The Internet was changing things; just none of us knew exactly how. But it was damn exciting new reality to contemplate.
In 2004, I first started articulating a belief that I still hold true today– that good, well-executed communication via blogging can make a huge difference in the fortunes of a company, large or small [I went on to explain it as “The Porous Membrane”]. And this time, the emphasis would not be a one-way message, but in a two-way “Conversation”.
Of course, “Conversation” is just a metaphor. When was the last time you wanted to phone up Hershey’s and have a long, deep, stimulating conversation with one their employees about 75-cent candy bars? No, sometimes you just want to put your money on the counter of the convenience store and buy your kids a little treat. And. That. Is. Enough. Human beings don’t scale. Our capacity for deep-and-meaningful is limited. “Conversation” is just convenient shorthand to better explain how markets– suppliers and buyers– relate to each other as human beings, not just as numbers on the spreadsheet. But that’s all it is. That’s all it needs to be.
Since I’ve become aware of this new world of Web 2.0, I’ve always been interested in testing its limitations, especially when it comes to marketing. So I’ve always been on the lookout for new opportunities in this area of business.
3. Earlier this year I started a conversation with Dell. So far the conversation is still going on. Some folks inside the company had seen The Microsoft Blue Monster and wondered if there was anything in this kind of thinking that could help their company. I’m guessing the answer might be “No”. The Blue Monster came out of pretty unique, random circumstances. Which of course, is the whole point. Ergo, I’m not really interested in a cartooning gig with Dell per se. I am, however, interested in the company.
4. It seems to me that, like a lot of large tech companies of a certain age, Act One in the Dell drama has reached its end. The war to get computers onto the desktops of the developed world, cheaply and easily, has been largely fought and won by companies like Dell, Microsoft, HP and Apple.
But what happens in Act Two? How do large tech companies like Dell have to re-invent themselves in order to make the grade? To keep their ever-growing army of customers and shareholders relatively content? Seriously. I want to know.
5. What needs to happen in order for Dell to become a better company? What needs to change? What needs to remain the same? These are huge questions. Like I said, it’s worth a fortune to anybody who can come up with good answers.
6. What is “The Conversation” that needs to happen? You tell me.
Over the last few years, I’ve had a few ideas about marketing and the internet. English Cut, Stormhoek and The Blue Monster were opportunities for me to prove them. And for the most part, I succeeded. Dell might be another opportunity. I’m not sure yet.