Inside My Brain

Thoughts about startups, tech, sports, and life

CATEGORY: Business

Overhear and Hustle

overhear

I recently had coffee meetings on consecutive days and in both meetings, I was approached by people sitting close to me who overheard my conversations. While sometimes this can be disruptive, in these instances, valuable connections were made and products were actually sold. I really appreciate the hustle of the people who overheard my conversations, so I wanted to write about them.

First, I met with someone who was interested in helping out with ribl. We met at Starbucks to get to know each other and toss around some ideas. During our conversation, we stumbled upon the topic of fashion and technology, and at that time, a guy sitting next to us overheard us and started talking about how he’s trying to grow the fashion ecosystem in DC by building District House DC and invited us to upcoming events. We all traded contact information and pledged to keep in touch.

hustle-everydayThe following day, I had coffee with a local venture capitalist and we discussed startups that were interesting to us. We started talking about content and publishing companies, and immediately a man who goes by the name DanielDaPoet walked up to our table and talked about how he spent a few years in jail and was now rebuilding his life by publishing memoirs. He pitched to us a $5 pamphlet of poems that he wrote about his time in jail, and the VC and I each bought a copy. He also asked whether we would help market his products, and we traded contact info. I appreciated and am inspired by the hustle of Daniel.

Meeting and working in public spaces like coffee shops can foster serendipitous encounters. Your conversation may be overheard and people may interrupt, but sometimes these interruptions can be helpful and inspiring. One day, you might be that person overhearing another conversation and benefitting from it.

I hope you found this interesting! If so, please connect with me on TwitterGoogle+, and LinkedIn for future updates.

Photos courtesy of Wayvs and Danger Zone Beatz

 

Guest Post for Thorn Technologies – The Week in Tech: Cyber Monday sales breaks record, major hacking of Sony, and more

Cyber Monday

Check out my new guest blog post on ThornTech.com titled “The Week in Tech: Cyber Monday sales breaks record, major hacking of Sony, and more.

Today we highlight the Cyber Monday sales record, the major hacking of Sony, Girl Scout cookies online, and Uber’s big raise.

I hope you found this interesting! If so, please connect with me on TwitterGoogle+, and LinkedIn for future updates.

Photo courtesy of alila33 on Flickr.

Contrarian Thinking for Startups – Recap of Peter Thiel’s “Zero to One”

zero to one

I recently finished reading Peter Thiel’s book, Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future, and it’s a must-read for anyone working on a startup or any product in general.

Peter Thiel was the founder of PayPal, co-founder of Palantir, an early investor in Facebook, and runs Founders Fund, an early-stage venture capital firm. Needless to say, the dude knows his stuff about startups.

His viewpoint is quite contrarian to mainstream thinking, which is a big factor why he is so successful. Some interesting questions and points that Peter makes in his book include:

  1. What important truth do very few people agree with you on?
  2. What valuable business is nobody building?
  3. Competition should be avoided.

Let’s dig into each of these a bit more.

What important truth do very few people agree with you on?

The most contrarian question of all is likely the hardest to answer. The point isn’t to purposely think the opposite of what the crowd thinks; rather, it’s to understand how you can think for yourself and be different than everyone else.

I think Pandora is a great example of this. Back in the early-to-mid 2000s, iPods and MP3 players were ubiquitous and Apple was reinventing music with iTunes. Who would have thought then that people wanted to just listen to music streamed to your computer that some algorithm selected?

What valuable business is nobody building?

This is the business version of the first question. If you can answer question #1 and build a valuable business out of it, you’re going to be successful.

The key word Thiel highlights here is “valuable.” In order to build a valuable business, you need to both provide and capture value.

Let’s go back to the Pandora example. While the company certainly created value for its users, whether it could capture any value was in doubt for a long time. High music royalty fees nearly toppled the company, but Pandora was able to strike deals to pay musicians fairly and sell enough advertising to capture value. It’s now a thriving public business, pulling in over $239 million in revenue in the 3rd quarter of 2014.

Competition should be avoided.

This tenet is directly related to a business’ ability to capture value.

Thiel compares the airline and search industries to make his point. Airlines, like United and American, provide a lot of value (they move many people from place to place) but captures very little (they make a paltry margin, if any). Google, on the other hand, creates much less value but captures much more (it’s worth 3x more than all the airlines combined). And the reason for that is that they’ve basically achieved a monopoly in search.

For startups, competition sometimes is considered to be a good thing, as it sort of validates your concept and shows that the customer demand for your product is high enough for other companies to want to build it.

Apparently, Thiel is thinking contrarily again.

If you found this recap interesting, you’ll certainly want to pick up the book and read it entirely. For anyone interested in products, startups, or just a different way of looking at things, it’s an easy and interesting read.

I hope you found this interesting! If so, please connect with me on TwitterGoogle+, and LinkedIn for future updates.

Guest Post for Thorn Technologies – The Week in Tech: Facebook at Work, Snapcash, Uber’s evil thoughts, and more

FB at work

Check out my new guest blog post on ThornTech.com titled “The Week in Tech: Facebook at Work, Snapcash, Uber’s evil thoughts, and more.

Today we cover Facebook at Work, Snapchat’s partnership with Square, Uber’s hatred of journalists, NYC’s hotspot network, and what Apple wants to do with Beats Music. Enjoy!

I hope you found this interesting! If so, please connect with me on TwitterGoogle+, and LinkedIn for future updates.

Photo courtesy of GCAI Online.

Guest Post for Thorn Technologies – The Week in Tech: Obama calls for net neutrality, YouTube launches Music Key, and more

Check out my new guest blog post on ThornTech.com titled “The Week in Tech: Obama calls for net neutrality, YouTube launches Music Key, and more.

Today we highlight Obama’s push for net neutrality, the launch of YouTube’s Music Key, Yahoo’s purchase of Brightroll, and Amazon and Hachette burying the hatchet. Enjoy!

I hope you found this interesting! If so, please connect with me on TwitterGoogle+, and LinkedIn for future updates.

When was the last time you thought deeply about something?

David-thinking

In today’s world of mobile devices, constant connectivity, and 140 characters, it’s tough to take time to think deeply about things.

When was the last time you read an interesting article, thought about it from your point of view, then had a conversation about it with a friend? Many times I’ll read something online and away it goes, never to be thought about again. Or I’ll take some notes in Evernote and forget I even did that.

I find that I think most deeply when I’m disconnected from the digital world. My mind better focuses on the topic at hand when I’m reading a physical magazine or listening to talk radio.

If you take the time to think deeply, that’s awesome. If not, take a walk and think about something besides work. Meet up with a friend, have a drink, and talk about your interesting side projects. Or take a digital sabbath. You may find that it clears your mind and helps you relax but stimulates and motivates you at the same time.

And yeah, I know that this article is kinda meta, as I’m thinking deeply about thinking deeply. :)

Guest Blog Post on ThornTech.com – The Week in Tech: Microsoft Office now free on mobile, Verizon and AT&T are tracking you, and more

microsoft-office-mobile-xl

Check out my new guest blog post on ThornTech.com titled “The Week in Tech: Microsoft Office now free on mobile, Verizon and AT&T are tracking you, and more.

Today we highlight how Microsoft Office is now free on mobile, Verizon’s and AT&T’s spying tactics, and how email addresses were stolen in the Home Depot hack. Enjoy!

I hope you found this interesting! If so, please connect with me on TwitterGoogle+, and LinkedIn for future updates.

A day full of teaching and learning

I love days that are full of both teaching and learning, and Wednesday was one of those days. Here’s how my day went and what went down.

A morning of teaching – Startup Weekend Bootcamp at Inter-American Development Bank

On Wednesday morning, I helped run a Startup Weekend pitch bootcamp for the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB). The IDB is preparing for their own corporate Startup Weekend in a couple of weeks to spark innovation throughout the company, so we held this bootcamp to help employees understand how to convey the key elements of their idea in a one-minute elevator pitch.

During the pitch exercise, the employees had to break up into teams of 4-5 members and were assigned a specific industry and customer segment (one of my favorite combinations was “toys” and “Angry Chileans”). The teams then had to come up with:

  • A problem that these customers may have that has to do with the specific industry
  • How large the target market is
  • A solution to the problem
  • Why the solution is different than what currently exists
  • Why they are the team to build that can succeed

They only had seven minutes to develop all of the above, and then only one minute to clearly pitch the idea to the crowd. Feedback was provided for each pitch, and the teams repeated the process twice more to hone their skills.

Creating a one-minute elevator pitch is not an easy thing for anyone to learn, let alone a group of employees who are trained to deeply think through solutions and provide in-depth research and statistics about why their project may be a good one.

But the IDB staff did an amazing job of getting out of their comfort zone during the exercise and were really receptive to the feedback given. I can’t wait to see how they apply what they learned at bootcamp to the full Startup Weekend!

An afternoon of learning – Washington Ideas Forum

The Atlantic held the Washington Ideas Forum here in DC this week. While I was only able to attend the latter half of Wednesday’s programming, the amount of amazing speakers they crammed into a short amount of time was astounding, and I learned a ton in just a few hours.

Here is a quick rundown of the speakers I saw and short takeaways from each session:

Craig Venter, Founder, Chairman, and CEO of J. Craig Venter Institute

He’s doing some ridiculous stuff in biology and genomics, including producing bacteria that can make medicine and create clean fuels. What what what?

T. Boone Pickens, BP Capital Management Chairman

The energy magnate believes that natural gas will separate us from our reliance on OPEC, which is a great thing for this country.

Mike McCue, CEO of Flipboard

Mike believes that we’re just getting started with the curated web and that Flipboard will be the leader in delivering the best curated content.

Anant Agarwal, CEO of edX, and Jim McKelvey, Co-founder of Square

Anant and Jim were interviewed together and highlighted how education is undergoing transformative change. Anant highlighted how online education is disrupting higher ed, and Jim focused on giving students specific skills, like computer science, that lead directly to jobs.

David Skorton, Incoming Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution

David highlighted how the Smithsonian is all about giving people access to its high-quality programming, both physically in Washington DC and digitally through the web and apps. That will continue when he takes over.

Dean Kamen, inventor of the Segway and DEKA Research and Development Corporation Founder

Dean believes that kids think science and technology isn’t fun, so he created First to combine the competition and entertainment aspects of sports with the subject matter of engineering and science to get more kids interested.

Dean also created a fully controllable and life-like prosthetic in just two years. He’s working on other amazing energy and clean water projects. The guy is just an inventor through and through.

Peter Thiel, Founder of PayPal and Palantir

This is the second time I’ve seen him speak and it’s more and more evident that he hates incremental change and wants people to work on big ideas, like underwater cities. Also, he very much questions higher education and compares exclusive universities to nightclubs – they’re expensive to attend, are all about status, and there’s long line of people who want to get in – and these schools want it this way.

Steve Crocker, Shinkuro, Inc. CEO and Co-Founder and Steve Case, Revolution Founder and Partner

Both Steves were interviewed by the great Walter Isaacson. Steve Crocker basically invented the Internet and told the really interesting story about how it came together. We owe a lot to that guy.

Steve Case talked about the third wave of the Internet will be incorporating the web into all aspects of our lives – transportation, healthcare and the Internet of Things at home. He also highlighted his “Rise of the Rest” initiative that aims to facilitate entrepreneurship anywhere in the country, not just Silicon Valley, NYC, and Boston.

Wednesday was a jam-packed day for me. But it felt great knowing that I helped the employees at IDB think differently and that I learned from many others who think differently as well.

Image courtesy of Defense.gov

Guest Blog Post on ThornTech.com – The Week in Tech: Retailers freeze out Apple Pay, FCC changing Internet TV, Tim Cook’s coming out, and more

 

currentc

Check out my new guest blog post on ThornTech.com titled “The Week in Tech: Retailers freeze out Apple Pay, FCC changing Internet TV, Tim Cook’s coming out, and more.

Today we cover retailers’ shutting out of Apple Pay, the FCC’s consideration of changing Internet TV rules, Microsoft’s Band, and the coming out of Tim Cook. Enjoy!

I hope you found this interesting! If so, please connect with me on TwitterGoogle+, and LinkedIn for future updates.

Guest Blog Post on ThornTech.com – The Week in Tech: IBM scraps chip-making unit, Yahoo mobile paying off, Twitter launches Fabric, and more

 

cn-image-ibmchip

Check out my new guest blog post on ThornTech.com titled “The Week in Tech: IBM scraps chip-making unit, Yahoo mobile paying off, Twitter launches Fabric, and more.

Today we highlight IBM’s shedding of its chip-making unit, Yahoo’s mobile strategy paying off, Twitter’s new developer tools, Snapchat’s first ad, and the launch of Google Inbox. Enjoy!

I hope you found this interesting! If so, please connect with me on TwitterGoogle+, and LinkedIn for future updates.