Inside My Brain

Thoughts about startups, tech, marketing, and life


How business is like poker

Business can be a lot like poker sometimes.

Many people take the wrong approach to poker and gambling.

When gamblers are losing money, they will keep playing to try to win back their losses. I see poker players spend hours at the table, lose stacks and stacks of money, and have no idea why.

And when people are winning, they’ll “quit while they’re ahead.” They’ll win a little bit and be satisfied with having a few more dollars in their pocket.

I think that’s totally backwards. Maybe we can call it the “gambler’s paradox.”

When you’re down, you should get up from the table, take a break, and gather your thoughts to understand why you’re losing. Maybe even call it a day.

And when you’re up, either your luck is running hot or you’re doing something right, or both. So you should ride that wave as long as you can.

You tend to see this in business as well.

When things aren’t working in business, you may see people stick to the same strategy, pump more money into advertising, and use brute force in an attempt to make things better.

Instead, they should take a step back, analyze where things are going wrong, and adjust accordingly.

When business is going well, many companies rest on their laurels, slow down, and stop innovating.

This allows more nimble and innovative startups to enter and win markets.

When things are bad, take some time off to refresh and rethink.

When things are good, put the pedal to the metal and keep moving fast and innovating.

Don’t fall prey to the gambler’s (or business’) paradox.

What do you think about this paradox? I’d love to hear from you. Write your thoughts in the comments, tweet at me @mikewchan, or email me at

I hope you found this interesting! If so, please share this article with the share buttons on the left. Then sign up for my email list below and connect with me on Twitter for future updates. And check out my podcast at!

How Nike lost Steph Curry – and why the little things matter

Stephen Curry

I read this amazing article on ESPN about how Nike lost Steph Curry to Under Armour. It’s long, so read it after you read this post. :)

Basically, Nike f’d up during their pitch to renew Steph’s deal in 2013. Nike was the incumbent and had every advantage in signing him again.

Yet they didn’t value him and it showed in their pitch.

They didn’t send their top people to the meeting.

Someone mispronounced his name as “Steph-on” and didn’t correct himself.

There was a slide in the presentation that mistakenly referred to Kevin Durant instead of Curry, which showed that the slide deck was repurposed and not reviewed.

Because of these mistakes, Nike lost Steph to Under Armour, a mere upstart in the basketball world. And now Steph is the star of the NBA and Nike is kicking themselves.

It goes to show that attention to detail and how you do the little things loom large.

Back in 2013, Steph may not have been as popular or as important to Nike as Kyrie Irving or Anthony Davis.

But that doesn’t give them the excuse of not being prepared.

They could have pronounced his name correctly.

They could have reviewed that slide deck one more time to check for mistakes.

Nike essentially disrespected Steph by not paying attention to detail.

You can’t give every task an equal amount of attention; more important tasks have to take priority over less important ones.

But you should pay attention to detail, no matter how small that detail is. You should be prepared.

Know how to pronounce your customer’s name; if you make a mistake, correct it.

Double check that presentation for errors.

How you do the little things is how you will do the big things, so make sure the little things are taken care of, because they really matter. Nike found this out the hard way.

What are your thoughts on the importance of the little things? I’d love to hear from you. Write your thoughts in the comments, tweet at me @mikewchan, or email me at

I hope you found this interesting! If so, please share this article with the share buttons on the left. Then sign up for my email list below and connect with me on Twitter for future updates. And check out my podcast at!

This is day 40 of my experiment to blog for 30 consecutive days.

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Your value is what the market will bear

A few days ago I penned a piece titled “What’s the right way to assess value?

After yesterday, I now know that value is determined by supply and demand, and how much the market will bear.

Yesterday was the first day of free agency for the NFL, and money was thrown around like there’s no tomorrow.

Brock Osweiler, the former backup quarterback of the Denver Broncos, signed a 4-year, $72 million dollar contract ($37 million guaranteed) with the Houston Texans.

Osweiler has started only 7 games in his career, all last season. 7 games! How can you assess a QB’s value after only 7 games?

He was able to land this contract because all of the QBs available in free agency aren’t very good, and the prospects coming out of college aren’t great, either. And every team needs a good QB.

The Texans determined that his value is that high, even though they had very little data to work with.

Low supply, high demand.

The same is happening with “normal” careers like yours and mine.

In the tech world, software developers are commanding huge salaries because good ones are hard to find and hold on to.

Low supply, high demand.

In my past career in the sports business industry, it’s quite the opposite.

Because so many people want to work for a sports team or league, these entities can pay much lower salaries. And there aren’t that many of these jobs available.

After graduating with my MBA, I landed a marketing job with a professional sports team and my salary was about half of what I made as a management consultant prior to business school.

High supply, low demand.

It may be tough to deal with the fact that your body of work, while somewhat important, is overshadowed by things out of your control, like market conditions.

All you can do is work hard, be nice, get things done, and control what you can control.

This is day 25 of my experiment to blog for 30 consecutive days.

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 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.

Philly Half Marathon ran, $4605 for American Cancer Society raised

2014 Philadelphia Rock n Roll Half Marathon

In July, I launched my fundraising campaign where I would run a half marathon and raise $1,500 for the American Cancer Society because I really, really, really hate cancer.

On Sunday, I completed the Rock ‘n’ Roll Philadelphia Half Marathon along with 22,000 fellow runners (that’s me in the front right of the picture – just kidding). I felt really good doing it, not only because the race wasn’t as painful as I thought it would be, but because I was running for my father, uncle, best friend and everyone else who has been negatively impacted by cancer. And I was able to raise $4,605 $4,675 dollars from my awesome family and friends to donate to the ACS!

It feels really good to do my part, as small as it may be, and hopefully this disease will eventually be eradicated. I believe that donations are still being accepted, so if you’d like, you can donate here.

Thanks to everyone who donated to the cause and supported me!

Tough Mudder, No Drinking, and Other Updates on My New Year’s Resolutions

At the beginning of 2013, I wrote a blog post that laid out my New Year’s resolutions, which were:

  1. I’m going to run at least two Tough Mudders, Spartan Races, or other similar races.
  2. At some point this year, I’m going to not have an alcoholic beverage for 14 days.
  3. I’ll achieve more focus in my entrepreneurial endeavors.

A couple of these have been or are being addressed recently, so here’s a quick update on my progress.

Tough Mudder #1 Complete

Mudder 2013 Before and After

Three buddies, my brother-in-law, and I ran the Tough Mudder this past weekend at Raceway Park in Englishtown, NJ, and it was awesome. Everyone made it to the finish line (we thought one of the guys might croak) in disgusting, muddy fashion and earned our t-shirt, headband, and free beer.

I ran a Tough Mudder last September so I knew what to expect this time around; couple that with beautiful weather (it was pouring rain during last year’s race), and this race wasn’t as terrible. It was definitely still a tough mental and physical challenge, and getting electrocuted and jumping into freezing water still really sucks.

I need to fit in one more adventure challenge by the end of the year to fulfill this resolution, and am thinking about doing a GoRuck event. We’ll see!

No Drinking for the Next Two Weeks

Starting yesterday, I’m staying away from alcohol for 14 days.

I know this one seems really easy, but I love having a beer with dinner or just to relax, and I don’t think I’ve ever gone more than a week without having a drink.

After the two weeks is up, I’m going to reward myself with drinks at the Drake concert on October 31 and then my buddy’s bachelor party in Vegas that weekend. I think that’s a fair deal!

More Focus in My Entrepreneurial Endeavors

This one is a bit more subjective and fluid, and I’m probably breaking even right now.

I’ve taken on a co-organizer role with Startup Weekend DC, adding responsibility to my plate.  But I’ve been more focused on a couple of my consulting clients and have made some progress on my next startup (more on that in another post). I think I’ll focus more as we continue with the startup, but for now I think I have a good balance.

At this point, all of my resolutions can still be accomplished. But we’ll see where I stand in a couple of months!

New Consulting Engagement – Block Six Analytics

Block Six Analytics Logo

It’s always been a dream of mine to work for an intern that I hired in the past…and now that dream has come true! I’m happy to announce that I’ll be helping out Block Six Analytics (B6A), a startup founded by fellow NYU Stern alum and ex-Marketing Intern of the Washington Capitals Adam Grossman, as a Sales Consultant. You can read the B6A blog post announcing our partnership here.

I hired Adam as a Marketing Intern in the summer of 2009 (how the tables have turned). One of the projects he worked on was valuation of the Capitals’ sponsorship assets, and B6A was founded shortly after that on the same premise. B6A’s software helps sports organizations clearly communicate the value of sponsorships by using a valuation model that demonstrates how targeted impressions generate new revenue for their partners. I’ll leverage my network to help Adam market and sell this software, among other software and services, to sports teams.

I’m looking forward to working with Adam again and helping him build his company!

Move Fast, Move Slow

I think there are situations in work and life where you should move fast and others where you should take it slow (or “quickly” and “slowly” if you want to be grammatically correct). My sometimes conflicting thoughts are below.

Things to do fast:

  1. Workout / run – fast, meaning “high intensity” – it’s more effective and you get it over with quickly. Double win!
  2. Things that aren’t imperative to your goal – you should consider outsourcing or not doing these things at all.
  3. Think – Malcolm Gladwell has some things to say about this.
  4. Address a problem – nip it in the bud and move on.
  5. Live life – you only live once (#YOLO!), make it worth it, no regrets.

Things to do slow:

  1. Eat – enjoy your food. I am terrible at this.
  2. Write a note to someone important to you – be thoughtful and check your speling :)
  3. Think (when it comes to analysis and numbers) – you can get lost quickly, and a decimal point in the wrong spot can be disastrous!
  4. Hire – my shortcomings on this here. Take it slow and make sure the fit is right.
  5. Find your soulmate – again, take it slow and make sure the fit is right. Don’t settle. It took me eight (!) years to realize who my soulmate is and I couldn’t be happier.
  6. Live life – it takes time to find happiness and/or satisfaction. Enjoy the ride.

What else can you add to these lists?

Recap of Tough Mudder

On Saturday, I ran the Tough Mudder race in Frederick, MD. It was awesome. Below is a recap and some lessons I took away from the race:

Tough Mudder is Extreeeeeeeeeme

The race entailed 12 miles of running and 20 obstacles involving mud, mud, and more mud, water, electricity, climbing, jumping, lifting, pushing, pulling and more. And on top of that, we did it all in a torrential downpour, basically running the entire race sloshing in mud and more mud! Crazy.

I’ve done a Mud Run in the past and that’s nothing compared to the Tough Mudder. This is a true test of both mental and physical strength and endurance. My entire body is killing me, I have cuts and scrapes all over my arms, legs, and torso and I even have bruises underneath my fingernails. It hurts to type this blog post, seriously.

Teamwork, Camaraderie and Perseverance are Essential

You can’t run this race alone. I ran it with two of my buddies and we pushed each other throughout the race. But it also felt like every Mudder was my teammate, as everyone helped each other scale the Berlin Walls, climb over the mounds in Mud Mile,  and complete many other obstacles. And even though it felt great for me to get past each of the obstacles, it actually felt better helping others complete them.

Everest was a killer obstacle where you had to run up a 15-foot-high quarter pipe coated in mud and grease, then leap and grab the hands of other Mudders, who help pull you over the top. One of my teammates had a lot of trouble with this one, primarily because “tall” isn’t a word you would use to describe him. In front of a gallery of hundreds of people, he tried to climb Everest about five times, each time sliding down in shame and embarrassment (I imagine he felt that way). On his final try, he was able to get a solid leap and we were able to grab his hands and pull him up. He never gave up and we worked together as a team to get him through it. It seems cliche but that’s what Tough Mudder is all about.

Poor Organization Made This Event Even Crazier

I don’t know whose fault it was, but the traffic going in and out of the event site was insane. 10,000 people converging on the country roads of Frederick, MD made for one hell of a traffic jam. It was so bad that we parked our car about two miles away from the event site and had to walk those miles before and after the race!

Overall, the Tough Mudder was amazing and I’d totally do it again. I have a sweet t-shirt and bright orange headband to prove that I finished. We’re going to try other similar races, like The Spartan Race, to compare. I’d love to hear from other people who completed the Tough Mudder or any other races about what they think.

What’s your version of winning the Super Bowl?

Eli Manning SB trophyI’m a big NY Giants fan, so I was totally pumped when they won the Super Bowl this past Sunday. But as I watched the Super Bowl parade yesterday and saw all the players’ and fans’ happiness, I thought to myself – What’s the normal person’s equivalent of winning the Super Bowl?

We’re all professionals at something, just not a professional athlete at the highest level and the biggest stage.  I think of the times that I’ve felt really good after accomplishing something, and I bet it pales in comparison to what Eli Manning or Tom Coughlin felt. What’s the career equivalent for people like you and me? Is it landing a big sale, getting that promotion or completing that big project successfully? I’m not sure it compares to lifting the Lombardi trophy over your head. Or if you’re an entrepreneur, maybe it’s selling your company or filing that IPO?   I should ask Mark Zuckerberg soon.

Maybe it’s something personal, like getting married or having a child? I don’t know, I haven’t done either of those. Or maybe buying that shiny new luxury car or big house, which signifies that you made it? Who knows.

So what is it? Have you ever felt such a sense of accomplishment that you felt that you won the Super Bowl of your world, and if so, what happened? Let me know!