Monthly Archives: April 2009

Where’s the vision in your startup?

What’s your vision?

Recently there have been discussions over ‘how long is too long’ from developers a little less than happy being part of a startup that is not yet paying them ‘what they’re worth’ or even getting involved in a startup that doesn’t pay them from the outset. Startup widows are also holding their spouses accountable for not having ‘made it’ yet.

The problem with this thinking is that the focus is on the payout, not on the journey or the goal. Their focus is on a timeframe. What’s acceptable, what’s not.

What’s your vision?

Deciding to get into the startup life is like jumping off a cliff. You prepare really well, you’re excited, and the people around you admire your decision. But after that, you’re relying on your own vision. And that’s where people begin to lose it.

When we decided to launch our startup in the US, I wish I had a dollar for every person telling me how ‘lucky’ I was. I find that weird. Lucky? No. Gutsy? Yes. Committed? Yes. Adventurous? Yes. Passionate? Yes.

I share a vision. (Please check out the difference between a corporate mission statement and vision statement here.)

So what’s my vision?

My vision is one in which we create technology that makes a real difference to peoples’ lives and changes how they view technology and communicate with each other. We’re going to provide the tool that restructures the way people create and interact with technology and communicate with each other online. (Oh yeah, this is a change-the-world thing!)

I’m into equity – not the financial type, but the equity of access and use that will make people want to create content instead of just consume it. I want it to be easier for them. I lust for the day people do more than just search for things online. I lust for the day that everyone – you – truly feels able to produce content and interact with it because they can fit doing it into their day. I lust for the day that it makes as much sense for them to create content and really interact with other peoples’ content as it does right now to Google something.

The prospect of being a founding part of the company that makes this happen excites me.

You’ll note that no aspect of this vision includes a timeframe. Even though I want it to have happened ‘yesterday’ purely because I am so darned excited about it, I haven’t said ‘we have to make this happen within xx years or else I’m out’. It also doesn’t include a financial payout. Sure we have to live, but it’s amazing how your expenses tend to meet your means. Ramen noodles taste good ;). Free public education is good education. Without wanting to sound like a Monty Python skit, I am proud to say I have really actually walked two miles in the snow with bags of groceries, and I didn’t die. The bus is usually my transportation, and sometimes if I’m lucky, a friend’s car.

It’s about what you’re willing to do to see your vision come true. It’s living the dream and enjoying the journey. It’s the reality of working with a startup.

As I’ve said before, startup life is like nothing else. It’s not a job. And when it feels like a job, when you start measuring ‘success’ by time and money, it’s time to do everyone involved with the startup a big fat favor and get out – because it’s not just about you. It means you don’t share the vision. Maybe you really never did.

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World Championships Speed Stacking

Yesterday we went along to the World Championships. Of course, if we didn’t live half an hour from the venue, I doubt we’d have gone along. That said, all four of my kids have had fun cup stacking. It’s a bit addictive. I even enjoy it. It’s great for working on hand-eye coordination, fine motor skills, teamwork… all that good stuff.

Please note *our* focus is not on being the fastest in the world. It’s more about beating your own best times, in a type of drag-race against the other team. In my view, only one person gets to be the fastest in the world. (At the moment it’s a guy named Steven, who is incredibly fast.) But if that’s all the focus you give to it, then you’re ripping yourself off from the fun that can be had in simply doing it to get better at it.

It’s this approach which I think makes the kids keen to try new things – sports, meeting new people, etc., and takes the pressure off them to do it better than anyone else. Enjoy our little video!

A win for the little guy? Ashton Kutcher plays tag with CNN.

By now even your grandma knows about the race to a million. Ashton Kutcher, old-media celebrity turned digital insider with various multimedia projects and Twitter groover challenged CNN to a race to a million followers on Twitter.

And after a nice little campaign, last night he won.

It was really fun to see the video of him crossing the victory line. He was really, truly excited. That’s impressive.

What’s more impressive is that Ashton (I can call him by his first name, ‘cos you know… we’re both Twitter sluts ;)) decided to use the opportunity to do two things:

First, promote the charitable cause (Malaria No More). He got a bank cheque made out in readiness for the win, and showed it up close on U-stream. He is knowledgeable and focused on his charitable work. (Granted, in his excitement over his win the splashing of champagne on a bank cheque for that amount of money is a little… well… off).

Secondly, and more importantly, he made the race into a statement about the democratization of media. About the power of the people. About ‘big media’ no longer determining who gets attention. Ashton repeatedly says that the revolution is happening. That we can change the world. We own the tools to create the content, consume the content and connect with each other. Anyone who can get to a computer with the internet is playing in the same playground as CNN – and they no longer have a guaranteed audience. And old media can just *suck it*.

Some naysayers and skeptics doubt that Ashton truly represents the ‘little guy’ in this equation (after all he’s a movie star right?). For example, Mark Glaser, otherwise known as @Mediatwit said: “This was NOT about the little guy at all. It was about a celeb getting little guys to follow him. If a real nobody got 1m that would be big.”

What Mark’s missed is that a key part of Ashton’s victory rant was his comment that ‘Hey, you can unfollow me. And that’s cool.’ Ashton gets that’s what happens. That’s what this is about. Six hours after he logged off last night, he was recording a segment on Oprah and said these things again … and again. Let’s not forget he’s also always talking directly to the Twitterers sending him messages. He’s authentic, transparent, on the ball and insightful. (So’s his dearly devoted wife, but that’s another post.)

So while the focus on playing tag for Followers on Twitter gives a bad impression and certainly doesn’t reflect the overall scheme of things in social media, the goal and opportunity for further influence created by Ashton and the point he’s made are undoubtedly positive in ways no other old media celebrity could achieve. He’s gained my respect, and the respect of other commentators. And I’ve never actually been a fan of his at all.

Now if only he’d teach all those other celebrities. You know the ones who need to get rid of their clueless PR hoons and tweet real conversations with other real people …. Are you listening Hugh Jackman? Oh that’s right… no you’re not.

What kind of Twitter identity do you seek?

There are some very interesting psychological theories used in Marketing and Business which explain why people behave the way they do. Put simply, people buy different brands and products to fulfill external and internal needs. These needs reflect their sense of self. And people can generally be placed in one of three categories:

1. Affiliation needs – people who primarily want to ‘belong’. For example, think of teenagers and their need to buy the latest fad.

2. Leadership needs – people who want to be seen as innovators and want to be seen as cutting edge. A good example is all those people looking for the latest and greatest new phone!

3. Achievement needs – people who buy things to demonstrate they’ve ‘made it’. Often, buying that sportscar or a First Class plane ticket fulfills that need.

My current research on discourse analysis on Twitter suggests you can identify people working to fulfill these same needs on Twitter! With just text to convey how we want to be seen by everyone, the things we decide to Tweet and whom we tweet with demonstrates us ‘working’ to fulfill one of these needs.

Someone with an affiliation need on Twitter will use lots of hashtags. Ways of belonging. They will identify themselves as part of popular movements on Twitter. They want to be part of a particular crowd. Mommy bloggers. Lots of RTs and @ conversations with people they want to be associated with.

Someone with a leadership need will probably not ‘life stream’. Instead they’ll stay on one topic and tweet links to specific cutting edge stuff in their field. They will talk with just about anyone as long as it’s on the topic they want to be seen as a leader in. They don’t stray from that path. It’s like they’re almost the Twitter expert on a particular subject.

Finally, someone with an achievement need will want to be recognised as having ‘made it’. These, I claim, are the type of people who un-follow bulk numbers of people so they can appear accomplished. They’re more likely to be focused on follower numbers than anything else. They might life stream about their accomplished lives, and even lead calls to donate to ‘people less fortunate’, to further identify their separateness from them.

The way we behave on Twitter reflect identity work where we want to be seen by the community as one of these types of people.

What Twitterers can you think of that fits one of these categories? Where do you fit?

Why I Stopped Following Guy Kawasaki

Twitter is a curious beast. It has morphed as it grows, due to the community of people who use it. And in researching the online social sphere for my graduate thesis, there are some key aspects of how people use Twitter that are indicators to how this is going to go.

Twitter is a tool used by a community. The tool of Twitter is no different to any other tool. The tool of Twitter exists as an infrastructure, and becomes what it is because of how the community uses it. Just as a knife can be defined as a weapon because people sometimes kill very effectively with it, so Twitter is a community because people interact on it.

Over time we’ve seen Twitter move on from being a post-modern, Web 1.0 Facebook-style status update of ‘what are you doing’. That whole status update thing had the whole broadcasting ethos of me! me! me! It was about telling the world about me and not really caring that much about what everyone else thought of it.

But Web 2.0, and beyond has seen Twitter’s ‘what are you doing’ develop to people actually asking each other ‘what are *you* doing’? And ‘doing’ for the Twitter community now really means ‘thinking’ and ‘wanting’ and ‘needing’ and ‘hoping for’, etc.

The community online uses social media to really connect with each other. To connect with people who you feel an affiliation with, or can learn from, or just feel close to. Not to broadcast.

And this is why I’ve stopped following Guy Kawasaki.

I’m sure Guy is a nice guy (sorry). He’s done a lot of good stuff, written some books that people rave about and stuff. He also gives a good party by all accounts. He certainly believes he’s extremely influential, and some other people do too.

so where’s the problem? A while back on Twitter @Guykawasaki was really him. He’d tweet stuff and interact with people. But as time has gone on, Guy’s Twitter account has morphed – much like most of Twitter. However, I’d argue the morphing that Guy has sought has been detrimental to his personal brand, and non-reflective of where the community of Twitter is heading. He’s introduced ghost twitterers, for which has received a lot of criticism – and he doesn’t seem to get what the issue with that is. He spends a lot of time on Twitter defending himself over this (it gets tiring). He’s also focused on the numbers and believes that putting out what he terms “good content” (ie: links to stories and ‘interesting things’ on the web that he has located and simply aggregates, not that he’s created) is all Twitter needs to be.

All of this means the stream of “Guy Kawasaki” really is about as authentically Guy Kawasaki as the fake accounts of myriad celebrities. When I started following Guy, that wasn’t the case.

And Guy, the fact is we use Twitter differently. I’m into conversation. Looking at my stats, I tweet an average of 13 times a day, and 70% of those are @ tweets. Connections and personal resonance is my focus. I’m not as into the numbers as you and all those traditional marketers and journalists and old-school bloggers with ‘number of eyeballs’ perceptions are. I have a relatively large number of followers and am extremely happy about that because it gives me the opportunity to talk with lots of different people, find out what they’re doing, how I can assist them, and vice versa. (To clarify: I gain followers in the old-fashioned way. No 3rd party tools, or requests for follows being broadcast. You won’t see me tweeting about my following as being a big thing for me.)

I’m interested in people individually. And I sincerely believe that’s where the future of online communication lies. Not in trying to elevate your own name by broadcasting what you think is ‘good content’ (no matter who created it), but by having conversations with people, everywhere. We’re not living in a Web 1.0 environment any more.

So time will go on and Twitter will continue to morph. I feel old school. The general real life community has heard of Twitter. People talk about “getting a Twitter” (which is strange phrasing to me). Mainstream traditional media is not only covering Twitter but is getting stories from its community.

The thing that’s driving everyday people to Twitter though, is not to just receive traditional mass media. The thing the people want is connections with other people, and real life celebrities such as Ashton, Demi and Kevin are using Twitter to connect with their fans. They have conversations with them. Really. That’s why they’re coming. That’s why Twitter’s growth is 30% a month. Connecting individually with resonance is everything.