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Showing posts from 2015

Book Review: Leadership Moment

This is my second book review – The Leadership Moment by Michael Useem. The book shares nine short, true stories of moments of leadership. Useem does a great job capturing stories from executives of large corporations to fire chiefs and extreme climbers. Each story details the events and decisions of the leaders and the implications of each leader’s actions (or inaction).
Takeaways from the book: Successful leaders take action decisively, and as soon as possible. Extreme leadership moments tend to occur out of extraordinary circumstances like Apollo 13’s Eugene Kranz. Eugene was the NASA Flight Director in charge of the control room, and he had the unenviable leadership moment to bring back the astronauts of the crippled Apollo 13. Given the incredibly depleting oxygen levels and power, Kranz had to make decision after decision quickly and decisively.Inaction is sometimes the most damning action of all. Useem shares the story of John Gutfreund’s fall at Salomon Inc. Gutfreund failed …

I'm Writing a Book About Startups and Entrepreneurship... From a Failure Perspective

If you follow me on Instagram or have spoken to me recently, you might know I’m writing an ebook about startups and entrepreneurship. Specifically, I’m detailing the lessons learned from failure via Body Boss. I’m also collaborating with Don Pottinger on the book.
I’ve never written long form before outside of school which I really didn’t enjoy. This, though, goes way beyond anything I’ve ever written at 60-something real experience-filled, highly revealing pages. However, much like the rest of my writing and book reading these days, I enjoyed writing this book A LOT. It’s all about context and startups and entrepreneurship are my passions. I’ve already gotten a lot of great feedback from early readers and editors. “Loved the honesty about it! I would often read a chapter and think ‘great lesson – gotta remember that’. In fact, I just had an idea on a simple, yet effective way for our foreign offices to stay connected with the demands of our US market…” “GREAT read. It's probably…

The Miss Universe Card Failed in One Glaring Design Principle – Being Understandable

The other night’s Miss Universe beauty pageant highlighted another example of how poor design can lead to awkward, high profile consequences. If you haven’t seen or heard, Steve Harvey mistakenly proclaims Miss Colombia as Miss Universe. Steve had to apologize and backtrack and name the real winner, Miss Philippines. As you’d expect, the internet exploded with internet memes and Twitter posts poking fun at Steve.

But really, Steve is a scapegoat for a poor card design. Take a look at what Steve was looking at:
I harp on UI and UX a fair bit already, and this just highlights the importance of clean, directed design. You can understand the need for the card to be easily editable so winners can be printed after votes. However, their design is not good, and did nothing to help Steve.
Let’s look at Dieter RamsTen Principles for Good Design, and see where the Miss Universe card fell short:
The biggest principles the card failed was being understandable and thorough down to the details. I…

Sales or Public Speaking? Cater Your Message to the Audience

My buddy David Vandegrift, consultant-turned-entrepreneur-turned-venture capitalist, recalled a conversation with a mentor who said it was an entrepreneur’s fault if the entrepreneur didn’t listen to his advice – “The Responsibility of Giving Good Advice”. David, however, believes it’s the advice giver’s fault if the message isn’t well-received. I agree with David.
While building Body Boss, I met with many investors and entrepreneurs. They all volunteered advice. However, no one had experience in what we were building. A few pieces of advice made sense looking back, but most didn’t at our stage – i.e. early partnerships or chasing funding.
In sales or public speaking, catering your message to the audience is paramount… I remember confusing/ upsetting a coach while demoing Body Boss. We sat in a room with several coaches projecting Body Boss. We kept using “consulting language” to the point one of the coaches abruptly stopped us and told us he didn’t understand anything we said. We fa…

Entrepreneurs Check if Schrodinger’s Cat is Dead

If you’re an avid fan of the show Big Bang Theory, you might recall an episode when Sheldon describes Leonard and Penny’s relationship potential using Schrödinger's Cat. In the episode, Sheldon uses the thought experiment to motivate Penny and Leonard to make a decision about going on a date.


Schrödinger’s Cat is a thought experiment developed by Austrian physicist Erin Schrödinger. In simplicity, the experiment proposes a cat in a box with a poison which can be exposed or not depending on another factor and left for an hour. During the hour, the cat is in a state of “quantum superposition” – that is, the cat may be both dead and alive. Only if the box were opened would someone discover if the cat is dead or alive.
I thought about this experiment when I took an alternate route to Atlanta Tech Village the other day. The route wasn’t better than my usual, but it let me lay to rest the “what if?” This is a similar principle behind entrepreneurship – testing hypotheses, learning, and …

Book Review: The Lean Startup

Welcome, to my first book review. I haven’t been a good book reader growing up till a few months ago – true story. I’ve been reading a lot of breadth via blog posts and online articles, but lacked the depth. Now, I’ve been adding in the depth with books.
After reading each book, I’ll write up a mini-review. This [first] book review will be on The Lean Startup by Eric Ries – it’s almost the de facto manual for startups, and one I believe in a lot. I knew of its principles, but it took me a good while to read so I could better absorb everything.
My key take-aways: Customer discovery is so important to test the initial viability of an idea and beyond. This should be done early, often, and on-going as a means of learning to adapt the startup to market needsBuilding a lean product (minimal viable product, or MVP) enables a startup to be more successful (or fail faster) – build, measure, and learn fasterIf there’s a problem or a bug, people are behind it. By asking five succeeding whys, you…

Improv Acting Games to Up My Sales Game

Last Wednesday, I went to Nick Conti’s Professional Actor’s Studio to audit an improv class. I’ve always enjoyed doing improv not just watching. It takes a high degree of creativity, fast-thinking, and confidence. It’s also a highly useful skill for salespeople and entrepreneurs. In fact, Steve Wall, SVP of Sales for StudentBridge, incorporates improvisation as part of his interview process.
A couple games the students played (names may not be accurate): 5-3-1 Conversation: Three people are assigned to a group and each member is assigned either 5, 3, or 1 word to respond. Members can respond in any order, but they mustrespond in exactly the number of words they’re assigned. Implication: Think fast and relevantly. Oftentimes, each person is so focused on answering in the number of words that his/ her response is pre-meditated making conversations choppy (not flow well). For salespeople and entrepreneurs, have a plan, but be ready to adapt.Mister Whisker: Everyone stands in a circle. On…

Overcoming Timidity by Deflecting Focus onto a Product

When I asked Kelly what challenges she’s had to overcome as part of Tuesday’s Entrepreneur Interview Series, I thought about how I overcome my own timidity.
As a recap, Kelly, founder of Jade Marie’s Beauty, said she was forcing herself to be more extroverted to grow her brand. She has a difficult time accepting, let alone bringing, attention to herself; though, it’s not out of lack of confidence.
Like Kelly, I grew up shy of the spotlight. Today, I force myself to be comfortable being uncomfortable (i.e. I uncomfortably do a bit of self-promotion). As I type this post and you read this, I’m behind a digital wall, and one where you’re reading this later than I’ve typed this.
My friends will say I’m a great “deflector”… seamlessly shifting attention onto others. This, I realize is how I overcome my timidity. This is how I get over the fear of making cold calls, pitches, and the like.
When it comes to approaching others about a product or person, I’m not talking about myself at all. …

Entrepreneur Interview Series: Kelly of Jade Marie’s Beauty

I sat down with a new friend who is starting a natural soap company, and in a sense, interviewed her as inspiration for this blog post.
I meet loads of entrepreneurs, and I’d like to start asking them similar questions to find common strings or uncommon facets of what makes them entrepreneurs. We did this with Body Boss asking coaches to answer a set of defined questions in addition to guest writing on our blog. It gave coaches an opportunity to market themselves and illustrate who they were while motivating others considering a job in strength and conditioning. This time, I’m doing it with entrepreneurs.
My friend is the first person I’m asking this common set of questions. Here’s Kelly Logan of Jade Marie’s Beauty: 1. Why are you pursuing entrepreneurship? Entrepreneurship is fulfilling. Kelly wants to build something from the ground up, and see how her hard work materializes. 2. What is it that you’re doing? Making natural hair and body beauty products, specifically, soaps right no…

Fresh Thanksgiving Thanks – Because It’s Cheesy But Fun

Ah, we’re back already for Thanksgiving. Not sure where this year went, and it won’t be too long before I do my end-of-the-year post.
It’s cheesy to write a post giving thanks, but that’s exactly what I’m going to do anyways. Last year‘s post already covers many of the same things I would want to cover now, so I won’t list them again. 
Here are five fresh thankful things: 1.Ever expanding connections from anywhere and everywhere. This year, I’ve picked up projects from meeting people at UK Consulate events, Starbucks, and the like. Doesn’t matter where I am, people have been happy to meet, talk shop, and stay connected. 2.Adding odd experiences to my CV. This year, I’ve been pulled into FOUR different photoshoots ranging from school magazines to company collateral. Never done that before. 3.Keep On Getting Up. Early part of this summer was brutal for me – I'm Tired of Faking It, But I Want This War. But after realizing I was at a soul-crushing place, I put in elements to catch myse…

Starting With Nothing: Solving Early Churn With Empty State Design

I recently stumbled on an article on TechCrunch about empty state designs – “The Most Overlooked Aspect of UX Design Could Be The Most Important”. It’s pretty good, and I won’t rehash the whole thing.
In gist, empty state design refers to the design and experience (UI/ UX) of an application when a new user opens an app or new feature. For example, if you just downloaded a photo sharing app, what would the app say and do to motivate you to use it? Poor empty state designs can lead to confusion, diminished interest, and the like which ultimately yields high churn early on.
Benjamin Brandall, the author, writes empty state designs should tell the user three things: What is this page/ platform for?Why are you, the user, seeing this?How can you fill out this page?Body Boss was built quite feature heavy without clear call-to-actions upon new registration. We noticed this more apparently when we were signing up coaches on the spot at a trade show early on.

When coaches entered, there was an …

Complementing a Visionary Founder with a Scaler CEO

I had lunch with the Founder of one of the startups I’m working with and the company’s CEO. The Founder is the visionary, and ran the business for the last several years. Early this year, the Founder tapped the CEO from the outside to take over the company’s day-to-day.
Normally, the CEO role encompasses strategic and visionary activities; however, in this case, the company Founder continues the strategic duties. The CEO is the “scaler”.
I sat down with the CEO privately to ask him what being a scaler meant to him: Does not need to be the one with the original idea. Instead, he embraces ambiguity in the direction of the company, and is excited for the opportunity to grow (scale)Instills processes to complement startup scrappiness with structure. The startup, in this case, has product-market fit, revenue, and a sense of the future direction – prime opportunity for a scaler. As an early-stage startup, processes are more machine gun spray. With maturity, the scaler focuses the company o…

My Favorite Tips from Sam Altman’s Startup Playbook

Last week, TechCrunch published 62 Tips from Y Combinator’s Startup Instruction Manual. It was written by YC’s President Sam Altman with some good quotes to ponder when doing a startup. I wanted to share my favorite Altmanisms: “Today’s successful companies all started with a product that their early users loved so much they told other people about it. If you fail to do this, you will fail.”“The fast you can develop self-belief and not get dragged down by haters, the better off you’ll be. No matter how successful you are, the haters will never go away.”“The best ideas sound bad but are in fact good. So you don’t need to be too secretive with your idea – if it’s actually a good idea, it likely won’t sound like it’s worth stealing.”“Founder need both rigidity and flexibility. You want to have strong beliefs about the core of the company and its mission, but still be willing to learn new things when it comes to almost everything else.”“If you have a pre-existing relationship with your co…

From Parable to Startup, Sower to Entrepreneur

Jim Rohn, inspirational author and speaker, shared the “Parable of the Sower” from the Bible to illustrate the law of averages – ~7’ video below. He’s famous, too, for the notion you’re the average of the five people closest to you. Turns out the parable has many lessons for entrepreneurs and startups.

Jim shares how despite birds eating many seeds and complexities of shallow, rocky soil, the sower keeps sowing. Never once does the sower mind the birds or the soil knowing that if he were to chase the birds, he’d get off course.
“If you chase the birds, you’ve left the field. You’re not sowing anymore.” The logic is that the sower sows more seeds than the birds can get and more seeds that would survive the hot days.
Some relevant points to this story, and indeed the law of averages, for entrepreneurs:
Not every prospect is a buyer, so sell (engage) with as many of the market and you’ll close many.The birds of a startup can be many including requests for more features, chasing funding, me…

Consider Monetizing Third-Party Beneficiaries Along a User’s Journey

An entrepreneur recently asked me how to monetize her app. She’s made great progress building and marketing her app. In fact, she’s been asked to do several interviews and has been invited to conferences all over. Next, she’s seeking investment to support growth, but has few ideas on monetization. Given specific challenges, she could consider monetizing based on third-parties.
Some background: the entrepreneur’s app empowers users to reach long-term safety and security. Since app launch, she’s ridden an impressive wave of press and publicity. Her app is cause-related, and given the most common user demographic, users are not financially stable. Meanwhile, as a for-profit company, asking for donations to support app development and her cause has been troublesome.
The app helps users navigate the long process getting from “low-point” to “high-point”. Because her target users have little disposable income, charging users will be a major deterrent and possibly dilute the power of her ca…

The 5 Big Take-Aways from Mobility LIVE 2015: Where’s Mobility Heading?

Last week, I attended the 3rd annual Mobility LIVE conference in Atlanta. This year’s event had a distinct Internet of Things (IoT) and Wearables flavor with the intersection of mobility.
I heard from over 15 speakers and panels ranging from CEOs of Fortune 500 companies to early-stage entrepreneurs and to execs at ad agencies and investment firms. Topics spanned location-based marketing technology, wearables, the future of mobility and connectivity, to Atlanta’s budding entrepreneurial ecosystem and investors’ takes on the future.
Poring over my Day 1 and Day 2 notes from the conference, I’ve distilled the conference into 5 take-aways for your enjoyment. Here we go:
Security is the greatest concern. Every panel noted security as a concern as more devices become connected and wireless. However, I’m wondering if there’s a sense that the companies will figure out security. Instead, it’s about overcoming security concerns for the public who are incredibly skeptical of Big Brother, too…

Mobility LIVE! 2015 - Day 2: More Mobility, IoT, Startups

Wrapped up Day 2 (the final day) of Mobility LIVE! at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta. The annual event brings together thought leaders in the mobile space in a series of speakers and panels.
I recapped Day 1 on Thursday. That was exhaustive. For Day 2, I’m going with 3-5 take-aways per talk and panel. Except, I’ll add a brief intro to each speaker/ panel to summarize.
Yesterday was all about the Internet of Things (IoT) and wearables. Today was a continuation on IoT, but also more focus on mobility as a whole and startups.
Kicking us off was a chat between Glenn Lurie, AT&T Mobility President and CEO, and Eddy Cue, SVP of Internet Software and Services at Apple. In many ways, these two helped usher in the mobile world as we know it today being key members along with Steve Jobs and Ralph de la Vega in bringing the iPhone to market in 2007. Glenn and Eddy recall those negotiations between AT&T and Apple and the relationship between the two ever since… The initial…

Mobility LIVE! 2015 - Day 1 Notes: IoT to Wearables

Just wrapped up day 1 of this year’s Mobility LIVE! event held at the Georgia World Congress Center. This year marks the 3rd installment of the annual convergence of mobility leaders from all over. With over 1,200 registrations for this year’s event, it’s proven to be a big hit (3 times the number of the first event).
I attended the event last year, and like last year, I’ll hit the highlights of the sessions I attended. Last year’s event was heavy on mobile payments. This year, we’re concentrating on the Internet of Things (IoT) and wearables – two areas I don’t know have much depth about, but do have a degree of depth.
But in addition to mobility, Mobility LIVE! showcases Atlanta’s unique and advantageous position at the heart of the mobile world. As one of the few, the proud, the native Atlantan, this event resonated proudly with me.
So let me start…
Kick-started by Ralph de la Vega, President and CEO of AT&T 3 trends in mobility: 1) Software and software development à Better, f…