Inside My Brain

Thoughts about startups, tech, marketing, and life

Under-promise and over-deliver – what a crock

“Under-promise and over-deliver” – I hate that saying and never understood why anyone uses it.

So you’re going to set low expectations and when you surpass them, yay! Everyone will be happy!

What a crock of shit.

What about setting realistic expectations? Or even setting stretch goals? Don’t you think that will make you work harder to achieve more?

Which situation is better:

  1. Setting a deadline of a month to complete a blog post, and completing it on time, or
  2. Setting a deadline of a week for that blog post, but completing it 3 days late?

If you’re a believer of under-promising and over-delivering, then you’d go with #1.

If you just want to get more shit done, then you’d go with #2.

I understand the importance of managing expectations, especially working with clients.

But intentionally under-promising on deadlines and deliverables for the purpose of over-delivering on them is pretty weak.

I think setting realistic expectations and even including stretch goals is the best way to go. Then, of course, delivering on your promises.

Sorry, rant over!

What are your thoughts about under-promising and over-delivering? I’d love to hear from you in the comments.

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Thanks for reading!

 

3 types of communities that are crucial for a startup’s growth

Communities have been an enduring theme on my podcast and have been crucial to the growth of many of my guests’ businesses.

While I’ve taken a break from podcasting, I continue to listen to past episodes and learn from my guests, and it’s no doubt how important communities are to their success.

Being involved with or building a community can be an extremely valuable way to engage with people who may later turn into customers, partners, and friends.

No matter what stage your business is in – whether you’re just brainstorming ideas or in the millions of revenue – there will be communities that can help move you ahead.

Let’s see what these types of communities are and how they can help.

Startup communities blog image

Local startup and industry communities

The first community that is very important when you’re launching a company is the community of startup founders, entrepreneurs, and industry professionals in your city or neighborhood.

For instance, if you’re a web designer in Raleigh, NC working on a financial technology startup, you should be part of and contribute to communities that focus on web design, fintech, and the general tech startup scene.

Being part of a local startup ecosystem can be a very powerful thing on many levels.

First, you’ll have a bunch of like-minded people with whom you can learn from and share your issues and concerns while you all are building businesses.

Regardless of whether you’re a solopreneur or part of a team, it’s always good to have an outsider’s perspective and an alternative point of view to solve your problem.

There is so much to do and to learn, and helping each other through the thick and thin is a valuable experience.

Next, you may be able to leverage your local network in order to gain customers.

Many of these entrepreneurs and small businesses are looking for products and services that you offer, and having that existing relationship gives you a foot in the door to make a sale.

You certainly want to add value before you drop the sales pitch on others, and being known as someone who gives before she gets is a great thing for business.

Finally, being part of the local entrepreneurship ecosystem opens the doors to many other networks, whether they are local or abroad, or directly related to your business or not.

By expanding your network, you may be introduced to future investors, partners, customers, and many others who may be able to help your business on one way or another.

If you’re a designer in search of a marketer, someone from your local network just may have a contact who is looking for that opportunity.

If your startup is ramping up and you’re in search for investors, a local entrepreneur may know just the person looking to make a bet.

As you can see, being part of your local entrepreneurial ecosystem can be extremely beneficial. But of course, it’s important to give before you get.

Volunteer your time at Meetups you’re interested in, provide some services for free, and be supportive of others in the community. Be known as someone who gives to the community and you’ll eventually receive benefits in spades.

Local communities are frequently spoken about on my podcast.

In episode 10, I chatted with Ron Schmelzer, the CEO of TechBreakfast, which is the largest monthly morning tech Meetup in the nation. If you’re into the technology scene, TechBreakfast events are great places to meet people like you.

In episode 14, Alec Hartman talked about how he is helping to grow New York’s tech scene by building TechDay.

In episode 16, founder Andrew Hyde and then CEO Marc Nager talked about how they launched and grew Startup Weekend to be a global phenomenon. Startup Weekend was one of the primary factors why I became an entrepreneur.

As you can see, there is no shortage of startup communities. No matter where you live, I’m sure that there will be a local startup or industry community waiting to welcome you, and being a part of these can pay off big time down the road.

Existing online communities

Existing online communities are the digital equivalent of your local community. The fundamentals of how they work are essentially the same, with the activity occurring on your laptop or mobile phone instead of in person.

Online communities will allow you to ask questions and garner answers from experts, provide your opinion and expertise to help others, make connections you wouldn’t have made otherwise, and potentially gain new customers.

But just like in local communities, you have to make sure to give before you receive. Blatantly promoting your wares won’t work, and doing so may get you banished from some of these sites. So make sure that you add value before extracting it from these online communities.

There are many community sites where you can interact with other like-minded people.

Reddit is the first to come to mind.

Reddit

There are hundreds of thousands of “subreddits” (topic-based forums on Reddit), where people gather to share articles and discuss and debate different subjects.

Going back to that example of a web designer in Raleigh, NC working on a financial technology startup, you can join the r/web_design (153,000+ subscribers), r/startups, (109k+), r/fintech (1k+), and even r/raleigh (10K+) subreddits to have a huge built-in audience to engage with immediately.

For more info on how to market on Reddit, check out this post.

Facebook Groups are amazing resources as well.

When I started my podcast, I joined podcasting Facebook Groups like Podcasters’ Hangout and Podcast Community. I interacted with hundreds of fellow podcasters each day, learned from them, and picked up a bunch of listeners and reviews.

Quora is another great community in which to engage. Quora is the best question-and-answer site on the web, and many smart people ask and answer questions that span all kinds of topics. You can search for and share your knowledge about thousands of different subjects. It’s a great place to both learn and teach.

Build your own community

One of the best ways to engage your customers for a long period of time is to build your own community.

No matter whether you build your community in the real world, online, or both, you’ll have a population of people who want to hear from and engage with your content and offerings.

Again, the keys here are to offer value, give before you get, and don’t always sell.

In episode 1, John Von Tetzchner, the founder of web browser companies Opera and Vivaldi, built passionate communities around these web browsers.

At Opera, Von Tetzchner built the MyOpera community to a scale of 35 million visitors per month at its height. The users frequently gave feedback on the product, and many volunteers contributed their time to testing unfinished products.

At Vivaldi, John was able to build a community from many Opera users who shared the sentiment he did – that Opera was becoming more of a commodity browser and he believed that browser users needed something more powerful.

So he developed online forums that potential users could join to talk about what they wanted from a new browser. The company engaged this community and frequently asked them for feedback as they developed the new browser, which gave the community a sense of empowerment and connection.

In episode 12, Luis Congdon talked about how his private Facebook Group has helped him grow his podcasting audience and sell a lot of his product, a podcasting launch course called The Podcaster’s Secret Weapon.

I am a member of Luis’ Facebook group and I must say that he does a great job engaging and providing lots of value to his audience without being overt about selling his products. And even when he does push his products, he does it in such a way that helps his constituents.

Conclusion

As you can see, communities are critical to the growth of businesses.

Regardless of whether you’re just at the idea stage, in the process of building your product, or have sold millions in revenue, being part of or building a community can help you engage potential or current customers and partners and set yourself up for success.

What are some ways you’ve leveraged communities to move your business forward? I’d love to hear from you in the comments.

I hope you found this interesting! If so, please share this article with the share buttons on the left and then sign up for my mailing list below.

Thanks for reading!

Focus, Discipline, and Consistency – my three goals for 2017

Happy New Year!

I didn’t make any resolutions for 2016, and I still won’t make any for 2017.

What I’m going to do is be as focused, disciplined, and consistent as I possibly can in everything that I do.

Let’s see what I mean.

Focus

I want to be more focused on both a macro and micro level.

On a macro level, I want to do fewer things, better.

That’s why I stopped producing my podcast. As much as I loved interviewing entrepreneurs every week, the podcast wasn’t getting me closer to my goal of launching and growing a successful startup.

So the time and mindshare that was spent on producing the podcast are now dedicated to working on my startup (more about my startup at a later time).

I’m still going to be involved with Startup Weekend, but I’ll limit my time on that as well.

On a micro level, I want to increase my focus on the task at hand, whether said task is for work or personal life.

When I’m working, I will minimize distractions from email, social media, and any other interruptions that come my way. I’ll dedicate specific times to check my email and limit my time on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media.

On the personal side, I just want to be more present in everything I do. For example, if I’m hanging out with my daughter, I’ll truly focus my attention on her instead of checking my phone every 10 minutes. I’ll concentrate on the people I’m with and the task at hand. It sounds simple, but in today’s world of technology all around us, I need to make that conscious effort to stay focused.

Focus is so crucial, and I aim to be more intentional about it in everything that I do.

Discipline

I’m going to work hard at being disciplined with my time and energy.

To do so, I’m going to schedule everything. All of my work tasks will be inputted into my calendar and assigned a specific time allotment. This will help me avoid Parkinson’s Law – where work will expand to fill the time available for its completion.

I’m also going to be more disciplined in my diet and exercise regimen. Vicky and I are starting our ketosis diet again, and I aim to exercise at least a little bit every day, whether that’s an hour at the gym or 15 minutes of push-ups and sit-ups.

Consistency

Finally, I’ll work hard to create a consistent cadence in everything I do.

On the work front, I’ll do a little bit every day to achieve my long term goals.

This might mean writing every day to consistently create blog posts for my role at Thorn Technologies, working on small tasks each night on my startup, or perform targeted engagement every day on social media sites.

In my personal life, this might mean working on a home project each week or being consistent in cleaning up the house.

Consistency is critical if you want to constantly get better and improve.

Conclusion

Focus, discipline, and consistency are my three goals for 2017 and beyond.

They’re not mutually exclusive, either.

It takes lots of focus to be disciplined, and lots of discipline to be focused and consistent.

If I can increase my focus, discipline, and consistency, 2017 is going to be my most productive year yet. And I believe I’ll improve my skills and relationships as well.

Let’s see how this goes!

What are your resolutions for 2017? Do you have enough focus, discipline, and consistency in all you do?

I’d love to hear from you. Write your thoughts in the comments, tweet at me @mikewchan, or email me at mike@mikewchan.com.

Ketogenic diet, coffee everyday, and meditation – new changes to my daily routine

 

I’m experimenting with some changes to my daily routine to see if they’ll impact my productivity and quality of life. I’ve changed my diet, am drinking coffee, and meditating.

Ketogenic diet

The first big change I’ve made is my diet, and I’m trying the ketogenic diet.

The ketogenic diet is a low-carb, high-fat diet that helps your body burn fat, instead of carbs, for fuel. It has shown to provide many health benefits, including weight loss, lower cholesterol, and increased energy.

Vicky and I just returned from a vacation in Taiwan. Before the trip, we knew we were going to stuff our faces, so we wanted to go on a diet upon our return. One of Vicky’s friends achieved amazing results with the diet, and hell, Joe Rogan does it. So we decided to give the ketogenic diet a shot.

We’re only on Day 2 and everything seems fine. The diet actually isn’t that much of a departure from what we normally eat. We usually eat a lot of noodles (we’re Asian, after all), and we’ll certainly miss bread, pasta, and pizza. And of course, I’ll miss beer.

But we get to eat lots of cheese, which we love. And this morning we ate real bacon, and eggs cooked with the bacon grease, which was absolutely glorious!

So far, so good!

Drink coffee everyday

The next thing that I’ve changed is drinking coffee everyday.

I’ve always loved coffee but I’ve never wanted to be dependent on it to get me through my day. I’ve known people who drank five cups of coffee each day and got headaches if they didn’t. I did not want to be that person.

So I made a conscious effort a long time ago to not drink coffee.

About a year ago, Vicky got a Nespresso and I started having a coffee once a week. And I found that I really looked forward to each Sunday where I can have that cup of joe.

And recently I’ve just noticed that on the days I drink coffee, I am much more awake and alert.

For instance, I had to drive from NJ to DC after returning from our Taiwan vacation. I was jet lagged and extremely tired, so I had a cup of coffee before the drive. I had absolutely no problem staying awake for the four hour trek and was very energetic throughout the day.

So I’ve decided to drink one cup of coffee every morning to see if it increases productivity and keeps me more alert and energetic throughout my day. Hopefully I won’t turn into an addict.

Meditation

I’ve never been a fan of all of that “ohhhhm” crap. But I’ve heard great things about meditation, so I’m giving it a shot.

Life can get pretty hectic as an entrepreneur and parent.

There’s a lot of worrying when you’re trying to launch and run a business. Things go wrong all the time, and you never make as much progress as you’d like. And your business is always top of mind.

Couple that with raising a kid, and stress levels go through the roof.

So I’ve been using an app called Headspace to meditate for 10 minutes before I go to sleep.

I’ve heard it’s helpful to meditate in the morning before starting your day, so maybe I’ll give that a shot.

I look forward to those 10 minutes where I can just breathe, space out, and disconnect from the world.

I never imagined that I would meditate, but I believe it has helped me clear my mind and put things into perspective.

Over to you

What do you think about these changes to my daily habits? Have you made any changes to your routine that have been impactful? Get at me in the comments.

I hope you found this interesting! If so, please share this article with the share buttons on the left! That’d be awesome of you.

Announcing Sightpath, kinda

I didn’t blog yesterday because I was at a conference/workshop called CollabSpace Chicago: The Business of VR.

And I presented our new startup, Sightpath!

We are super early-stage but are excited about this product. Sightpath is an analytics platform for virtual reality app that allows app developers and product managers to truly understand the behavior of their users.

Virtual and augmented reality is the next computing platform and will change the way we connect with others, and we’re excited to build the underlying technology that will power user behavior insights.

I’ll fill you in soon on some things we’re working on.

The event was very interesting and valuable. It wasn’t your typical conference where you simply sat in front of speaker panels and hear people talk business.

I presented Sightpath to the crowd, we identified key challenges that we are facing, and talked through how to approach those challenges. And, of course, there was improv involved!

Most importantly, I met a lot of people in the industry and got their thoughts on how their using analytics for their virtual reality apps. Most if not all of them definitely see the need for something like Sightpath, and are excited to see our progress.

It was a great event and has gotten me very excited for our prospects. We’ll keep cranking away, and stay tuned for more information!

Are you patient enough?

I was going through the airport security checkpoint this morning and the man in front of me (I’ll call him “Dude”) looked really impatient.

The guy in front of him (I’ll call him “Guy”) wasn’t even moving that slowly. He was doing the typical things – taking off his shoes, putting his luggage on the conveyor, etc. – at a normal pace.

Dude was rolling his eyes, trying to move in front of Guy, and just being kind of pissy.

We walked through the metal detector and gathered our belongings. Dude was rushing and walked off while I grabbed my stuff.

When I looked up, I saw that Dude left his suitcase on the conveyor. I called to him and he had to walk back to grab his bag.

His impatience made him forget something really important and necessary.

(I thought about the fact that he might be late for his flight, but I found out he was on my flight, which wasn’t taking off for a while.)

This can happen to anyone. We’re all busy and have places to go, and we want to get there as fast as possible.

I admit I’ve been impatient when it comes to the startups I’ve been working on.

In the startup world, you’re supposed to “move fast and break things.”

You’re supposed to “fail fast”, “hire fast and fire fast”, talk fast, run fast, blah blah blah.

And I get impatient when progress isn’t made each and every day.

Maybe I need to better understand that things take time to develop.

For my first startup, I was impatient when things weren’t progressing. It failed for a number of reasons, but I think one of them was due to my impatience of things not moving fast enough. And I left some relationships behind.

I think moving fast is very important. In an ideal world, you’ll make quick decisions, build quickly, iterate, learn faster, and move forward.

But sometimes you need to understand that things take time, and some of the best products and companies take years and years to find success.

If you move too fast, you might leave things behind.

Have you ever left something behind because you were too impatient? Talk to me in the comments!

I hope you found this interesting! If so, please share this article with the share buttons on the left! That’d be awesome of you.

The importance of understanding your weaknesses – Chris Sacca on TWIST

Chris Sacca and Matt Mazzeo

Chris Sacca and Matt Mazzeo on TWIST — Photo courtesy of TWIST

I recently listened to part 1 of an interview with Chris Sacca and Matt Mazzeo of Lowercase Capital on This Week in Startups.

If you’re not aware, Lowercase Capital is one of the most successful seed stage investment firms in existence. Chris and Matt have invested in companies like Twitter, Uber, Stripe, Kickstarter, and many, many more.

The interview was really insightful and interesting. One of the things that stood out to me was when Chris said that he passed on Snapchat because he thought it was only about dick pics. When he told Matt that he passed, Matt was livid because he was a Snapchat user and thought it was an amazing product.

Chris is a little older, has a family, and thus has never swiped right or left (i.e. never used Tinder).

He isn’t in tune with the new ways that people are interacting with apps and each other.

This made Chris realize that his strength isn’t in taking the first meeting with a startup. He doesn’t “get” many of the products that are targeted toward millennials and younger people, so he’s not a good judge of whether he should invest in them.

Thus, he relies on Matt to judge those potential investments.

I love how one of the most successful investors in the world can openly admit his weaknesses and even more importantly, bring in people who can complement those shortcomings.

I think many times ego gets in the way and entrepreneurs (or anyone, really) think they can do it all.

Continuing to learn and understand new concepts is powerful, but sometimes you just have to realize that you can’t improve certain weaknesses enough. So you need to bring in additional resources and share the responsibility.

If one of the most successful investors in the world can be introspective enough to identify his weaknesses, everyone can.

It’s a powerful thing.

Have you identified your weaknesses, and if so, how have you dealt with them? Talk to me in the comments!

I hope you found this interesting! If so, please share this article with the share buttons on the left! That’d be awesome of you.

That’s not the way you debate! My thoughts on the Presidential debates

Old-School-Debate-Meme

Yes, I watched the presidential debate instead of watching Monday Night Football, even though I had 3 guys on my fantasy team playing in that game. My team wound up winning. :)

I’m no wonk, and I didn’t fact-check, but here are my thoughts on what went down during the debate.

Let’s start with Hillary.

She was pretty much what we all expected. Very factual, very calm, and not at all inspiring.

We know she has the experience, we know she can get the job done, but is anyone excited about her becoming president?

It might not be fair to compare her to President Obama, who did an amazing job in moving the nation during his campaign.

But does anyone believe that Hillary can energize this country? This debate didn’t change that.

Now, Trump.

As much as his supporters say that he’s a straight shooter, he did nothing of the sort last night.

He deflected and avoided every tough question that came his way. His answer to the Obama birth certificate issue was horrible, and his thoughts on race relations and “law and order” were barely thoughts. He basically admitted he has avoided taxes and doesn’t have as much money as we think he does by not answering those questions directly. He talked about not allowing companies to go overseas yet didn’t elaborate on how. He really didn’t speak his mind because he knew that he would get chastised for it.

He interrupted Hillary Clinton many times and failed to respect the time limits and debate process.

Overall, he continued to show why he isn’t fit to lead this country.

I would have loved to be able to say “That’s the way you debate!” like Will Ferrell in Old School, but unfortunately this debate didn’t warrant it.

Can we get Gary Johnson in the next debate?

What are your thoughts on the debate? Talk to me in the comments!

How do you deal with distractions from your smartphone?

driving with smartphone

Distractions are all around us, and most of them can be blamed on that tiny supercomputer in our hands – the smartphone.

Obviously, work is where you can be most distracted.

Constantly checking your phone for emails, text messages, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, or whatever app du jour you’re using can be so detrimental to completing your tasks. Push notifications make concentrating nearly impossible.

One second, you start a task in the morning. The next second, your friend sends you a message on WhatsApp about the slate of NFL games played yesterday.

Next thing you know, you’re checking on how your fantasy teams did. Then you’re researching a trade for a running back. Then negotiating said trade with other owners.

Oh man, it’s 5PM already? Time to go home!

What did you get done that day? Maybe a fantasy football trade, but maybe not even.

(BTW, that’s not me I’m talking about, it’s a hypothetical story, I swear).

I’m not only talking about work, though.

I walk my dog everyday and many times check my phone while doing it. Next thing I know, she’s eating some food scraps off the ground, and I have to worry if she’ll make me pay for my lack of attention by pooing somewhere she isn’t supposed to.

Sometimes when I play with my daughter, I’ll get distracted and check my phone. While I’m not looking, she’ll run toward our deck and lick the screen door. Or go to my dog’s water bowl and stick her hand in it. Or do something else she isn’t supposed to do.

And of course, we can’t leave out the distractions of the smartphone while driving. Dangerous.

As magical as the smartphone is, it is probably the biggest distraction ever created.

We can turn on airplane mode to avoid any incoming communications, but do we?

We can leave our phones at home when we go out for a short amount of time, or place it in another room so it’s not always with us. But do we?

How do you deal with all of the distractions that the smartphone brings? Do you ever put your phone in airplane mode, or leave it in the other room? Talk to me in the comments!

I hope you found this interesting! If so, please share this article with the share buttons on the left! That’d be awesome of you.

Ever feel like you’re an impostor? That can be a good thing.

impostor girl in glasses

I had a conversation with my co-worker Rob yesterday and he was worried that he was an impostor. I said that in some scenarios, that’s actually a good thing.

Here’s the backstory.

Rob is a huge Pokemon Go fan and awesome iOS developer, and built an iPhone and Apple Watch companion app for the game called GoTypeChart.

The app helps you quickly figure out what type of Pokemon to use for Gym battles in Pokemon Go.

I don’t play the game, so I don’t know much, but apparently there isn’t always a right answer for which Pokemon to use in each scenario. And some other “experts” said that some of the recommendations in Rob’s app were wrong.

Due to the negative reactions to his app’s suggestions, he felt that he was just an amateur Pokemon Go player and didn’t deserve to have an app like this in the App Store.

Rob felt like an impostor.

I said that’s OK.

The word “impostor” has negative connotations that typically include fraud and trickery. It doesn’t always have to be viewed that way.

Everyone is an impostor at some point.

Any time you learn something new and try to apply what you learned to a problem you’ve never faced before, you’re an impostor. You don’t really know what you’re doing, but you’re giving it a shot.

If you pre-sell a product that doesn’t even exist yet, you’re an impostor. Kickstarter? Full of impostors. But that’s a damn good thing that you were able to do that.

If you build an app but aren’t really sure what you’re doing, you’re an impostor. But you’re building something and putting your skills out on display, and that’s brave.

Impostors may lie and say that they know what they are doing, when they really don’t. But if you give it a shot and learn along the way, being an impostor can be a good thing. It means that you’re trying new things and growing.

So go ahead and be an impostor (the good kind).

Have you ever felt like an impostor, and what did you do about it? Talk to me in the comments!

I hope you found this interesting! If so, please share this article with the share buttons on the left! That’d be awesome of you.

Image courtesy of Jason Eppink on Flickr