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15Dec/092

Entrepreneurship Social-Media and Skeptics Oh My! (Prt. 3)

This is the final part of a three part series I wrote in 2008. It was my take on the developing web 2.0 landscape. Now that the fall semester has come to a close, I'll be able to dedicate a little more mindshare to this website. I want to put a capstone on this, revisited, 3 part series and this year by offering my thoughts on a book I read about a month ago - Guy Kawasaki's Rules For Revolutionaries. I offered some brief thoughts over on my "short-form" tumblr blog, but I really want to expand on those thoughts here. Check back within the next week or two for that.

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In my last post on this subject, I spoke to the benefits I've experienced thus far with social-media, where I think social-media is heading, and how social-media is all in all a good thing. I'm going to try to address some of the concerns present with current day social-media as I see them and also try to cover some of the criticisms skeptics have raised pertaining to social-media and maybe a rebuttal to them.

Time to wrap this thing up.

The Skeptics

The internet, since its inception, has been criticized for its lack of credibility and rightly so; the internet and its predecessor has been a hotbed of piracy, copy write infringement, porn, and all things sinister and evil. Services such as Apple TV, Netflix, and iTunes have only been around for a few years and those services have only recently become widely accepted mediums for utilizing the internet as a legal source of media. The long and skinny of it is that the internet is still a very unrefined place - the wild wild west of our generation.

There is no clear model of how to generate revenue from the internet; although many have profited greatly from the internet thus far, those successes are few and far between and there are no clear answers why some have succeeded and others have failed miserably. Furthermore, there is no sign of what will and won't work in the future of the internet. We're all pulling at straws, hoping that something sticks and this is the very reason there are so many skeptics of web 2.0.

In the past, the most effective way to make money on the web was through banner ads. But banner ads have been just a piss poor attempt at digitizing traditional advertising formats, producing abysmal performance per dollar spend in comparison to their traditional counterparts. Furthermore, it's been argued that people don't want to be marketed to while online - that they want to get in and get out and move on while surfing the web. Others claim social-networking is superficial, too time consuming, dilutes your personal brand, and is no replacement for face to face contact

I can't help but think of Guy Kawasaki when discussing this topic because he seems to have been on the forefront of some of the trends brought on by the internet, if not create some trends, but I asked my business formation professor about what he thought of him (since he referenced him in one of his lecture notes) and my professor had one simple question: What successful ventures has he created or financed?

The question floored me to an extent, mostly because of the sheer simplicity of it. He had a way of cutting straight to the chase in his lecture style and he definitely delivered in this razor sharp questioning. He continued (and I'm paraphrasing here):

He [Guy Kawasaki] seems to have written some books on the subject of business formation and have had some success there, but be careful about what you read and really vet your sources because anyone can write anything they want, especially on the internet. Look into what they have actually accomplished and always take everything with a grain of salt.

Fairly basic advice, but for some reason it really resonated for me: So I asked myself "I like Guy Kawasaki, what ventures of his do I know of that have been wildly successful?" Well, I can't really say for sure. I can only assume his "Alignment of Interests" section on his blog indicates some of the ventures he's involved in and that his venture capital firm Garage Tech has a pretty impressive portfolio of companies listed (at least I'm impressed by the fact that one of my favorite finance sites, Motley Fool, is listed).

Like I said before, I came across an article in the WSJ about Penelope Trunk and through her blog found out about Guy Kawasaki, then alltop, then all kinds of super relevant and informative blogs and people like Zen Habits, Unclutterer, Life Hacker, Chris Brogan, Problogger and on and on. I kind of got so enthralled in all this new and intriguing information, I think I kind of lost a little bit of my analytical and usually skeptical approach to new or untested information. Once you start clicking through a lot of these links, you'll notice that a lot of information will end up getting reused and recycled in a flurry of almost circle jerk proportions - not necessarily a bad thing in its own right when the information is relevant, useful, and legitimate. But very dangerous when one blogger makes baseless claims that get substantiated by multiple bloggers who may find that stance convenient to what ever world view they promote. Copyblogger speaks to the "circle-jerk" nature of bloggrolling I'm referring to here as a barrier to success for social-media as a means of revenue generation.

One of my close friends is very much anti social-networking. The irony here is that he's a programmer who spent a significant amount of time in the bay area during the mid to late nineties who worked with a lot of start ups (even to the level of being the CTO for one). His gripe? He wants to spend less time on the internet not more. He shares the sentiments of social-networking being too much of a time commitment for little personal gain. He also argues that every time he logs onto what little sites he's a member of (a fairly infrequent occurrence), one site falls out of light in favor of another. There's really no keeping up with who uses what site and to what end, leaving you with a disconnected network of friends in different circles spread throughout the internet.

Look, I get it... I get that the "true" utility of social-media has yet to be defined, I get that no one wants to be pitched wares by their "friends" every time they log-in and check their messages, I get that legitimacy is in question every time you open google reader to check out what's happening in the your world, I really do. But look, there is a new landscape out there, and I'm not talking about technology, I'm talking about new attitudes to and expectations of the internet.

Web 1.0 didn't look any different from web 2.0 (well, maybe there were less annoyingly flashy websites in web 1.0), no one really knew what to do with it or what to think of it. We were still used to very limited sources of news and opinion at that time, and for that reason, those sources had to be highly scrutinized, editorialized, and legitimized through a systematic source of checks and balances. That process lead to a centralized monopoly of information providers simply out of the necessity to develop and maintain the resources needed to maintain the infrastructure of information. Web 2.0 isn't about new internet technologies, it's about new ways of generating and processing information, it's about new attitudes towards an open channel of information that democratizes our most precious asset - knowledge.

26Oct/093

Entrepreneurship Social-Media and Skeptics Oh My! (Prt. 1)

I've come a long way since starting this blog almost two years ago. I'm going to re-post this series of posts because I want to re-litigate some of my ideas on web 2.0 and see if they need a refresh and try to determine where my ideas need refining.

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Before I get ahead of myself, I should say that I just updated my about page. There isn't much there, but you'll notice I'm in school for an MBA (about half way through at this point). You'll also notice that I've got quite a few different interests across a fairly wide spectrum (i.e. engineering and photography & DJing aren't exactly 2 peas in a pod). So as I continue to explore various career paths and try to align my experience (and dare I say, expertise) up to this point with my relatively diverse interests to create a career where I don't feel like shooting myself in the face with a shotgun every time I show up for work, the more I realize I'm pigeonholed into the kind of jobs that my academic background would suggest I take. On paper, I'm a one-dimensional number cruncher, deployed as a specialized cog in a large convoluted and disorganized system of industrial inputs and outputs.

The above lays the groundwork for the following post. I might have to break this up into several sections to keep things organized and on point.

Entrepreneurship and New Venture Development

For the sake of maintaining my beautiful face (what with all the shotgun blasts), I'm finding that I'm most likely going to have to start my own venture, or at least highly consider this option in lieu of the mythical perfect job where everyone has an oversized beanbag of an office chair, lunch is catered daily, and there's a whole arsenal of nurf paraphernalia in the board room. And cold beer on tap in the cafeteria. Oh, and your to-do list has cure world hunger. And... well, you get the point. Basically a place like IDO, not that they have beer on tap, but it's basically the kind of place I'd like to work if I could work anywhere I wanted.
Last semester I had probably the best class that I'll have in the entire program. As much as I like Porter's 5-forces and to use terms such as paradigm shift and functional frameworks in my daily vernacular of BS MBA mumbo jumbo, a lot of the shit thrown at MBA programs and MBA candidates is pretty fair: Great business leaders business school does not make. But last semester, I took a class on business formation and new venture development. My professor was a seasoned venture capital manager and financier as well as an accomplished entrepreneur; this class was almost more about life than it was about business. The key take home message, at least for me, was that you can't be taught entrepreneurship as much as you can learn from other peoples entrepreneurial exploits. Basically, you get to learn about all the myriad of ways a financier/partner/your own mother will screw you when it comes to starting a venture - I'm being dramatic, but you can really get the idea of how wisdom comes with age when you've got old timers telling how many times and ways they've been duped (or even how they did it on sending end).

We had a speaker every week who shared all their war stories. I'm not going to get into too many details about the stereotypes associated with the personalities of entrepreneurs and the details debunking those stereotypes - like everything else, they come in all shapes, sizes, and flavors. I'm also not going to cover how they they were all pretty smart, creative, and so on. However, I will note that, in almost every case, these entrepreneurs all made their mints through impeccable timing. One rode the telecom deregulation wave of 70's the, another got great deals on some real estate in the 80's. The point? Timing is everything.

I think I'll continue on this topic sometime in the future, but for now, this is a good segue into the next part of this three part series. Social-media, Web 2.0, whatever you want to call it, the timing is right for this whole thing to make a mint for some people.

Stay tuned and leave a comment with your thoughts.

16Jul/090

Calculated Inexperience

This thought is a bit of a follow up from the previous post.

I'm a not a very traditional engineer in a lot of ways. I suck at simple arithmetic, I'm very extroverted, I get bored by tedious & repetitive tasks, and I'm very into artistic expression. But one trait that fits the bill is that I'm a very analytical person. I follow a very stoic and logical philosophy when it comes to my approach to life. But I'm also a hypocrite in that I'm a very emotional being... more on that later.

I've been spending a lot of mental capital on figuring out what my next step should be and a lot of that debate is centered around the contrast between instinct & advice or common wisdom. I have a strong interest in starting a venture; of course, the right way to go about doing this is to study up on how business are funded, how venture capital works, get an MBA, analyze the prevailing market trends and, of course, drink from the firehouse of information that's out there about current or formerly successful entrepreneurs. Like I said, I'm going to do this thing right if I'm going to do it.

But here goes the problem, there is no "right." There's only did, or didn't. Logic follows that startups fail more than they succeed and any analysis of the situation will always bring you to the same logical conclusion. Don't.

So I return where I left off at the part about being a creature of emotion. I love my job right now. In fact, it's my dream job. It's very challenging, very dynamic, offers endless learning opportunities, and I'm highly respected by my colleagues. As I write this, I'm 27 years old and am blessed with such an amazing life; but, if I just work for the rest of my life, I've basically reached my peak. Sure, I'll finish grad school and make more money and gain more responsibility, but I've cleared a lot of the greatest hurtles to success. I have to stop thinking through this so much and I have start getting emotional!

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2PhQTZcG5S8]

I recently watched this video from my youth again and realized that success isn't enough, I have to do great things. I had suppressed my memories from my childhood so much that I forgot how much of a fighter and survivor I was and had to be to make it through that crap. I can't waste all that effort on complacency & a BMW M3, I have to act! I need to be young, stupid, bold and naive. I need to try to reinvent the world and be so ignorant that I think I can!

Let's go!

17Jun/084

Work In The Industry You Want to Start a Business In

A quick update:

I've been really busy trying to seal up a job offer. I was in the middle of a post about results oriented work environment (ROWE) when I came across an excellent opportunity to be a software consultant for an ERP company.

I want to make this a quick one so I don't get lost in the vortex life's to busy to blog. But I have a second interview for a software consulting gig that I'm 95% sure I'll stick. And this just gives me an opportunity to remind you that knowing an industry can give a big head-start when it comes to starting a venture. Even if you aren't a key player in your role, there are still many things you can learn just through observation.

I'm so excited for this since it kills three birds with one stone.

1) It gets me out of the dungeon that is manufacturing and broadens my horizons so that I don't get pigeonholed down the path of becoming a boring Six Sigma "Master Black Belt." (Shiver)

2) It gets me into a consulting career path, which is something I've always imagined myself doing whether corporate or on my own - I really like helping people and why shouldn't I get paid to come up with innovative solutions to other peoples problems?

3) It gets me into the world of IT and software, which gives me risk-free (I'm getting paid) insight into whether or not people will rely on technology more heavily into the future or less - and basically every other aspect of diving into the web 2.0 sphere. Even though this isn't a "web 2.0 company," I'm going to be working on the leading edge of where old world business intersects new world technology; and that's a great place to be when the evolution of technology is happening right underneath your feet.

Even though I'm getting treated for lunch for this second interview, it's not 100% until I have a written offer in my hands. But the point remains: if you want to start your own business, try to work in that industry so that you can get a real-world taste of the of the challenges you will face and so you can gain deeper insight into how you might be able to exploit some of the finer nuances of the industry.

Well,

Wish me luck!

20May/080

Entrepreneurship Social-Media and Skeptics Oh My! (Prt. 1)

Before I get ahead of myself, I should say that I just updated my about page. There isn't much there, but you'll notice I'm in school for an MBA (about half way through at this point). You'll also notice that I've got quite a few different interests across a fairly wide spectrum (i.e. engineering and photography & DJing aren't exactly 2 peas in a pod). So as I continue to explore various career paths and try to align my experience (and dare I say, expertise) up to this point with my relatively diverse interests to create a career where I don't feel like shooting myself in the face with a shotgun every time I show up for work, the more I realize I'm pigeonholed into the kind of jobs that my academic background would suggest I take. On paper, I'm a one-dimensional number cruncher, deployed as a specialized cog in a large convoluted and disorganized system of industrial inputs and outputs.

The above lays the groundwork for the following post. I might have to break this up into several sections to keep things organized and on point.

Entrepreneurship and New Venture Development

For the sake of maintaining my beautiful face (what with all the shotgun blasts), I'm finding that I'm most likely going to have to start my own venture, or at least highly consider this option in lieu of the mythical perfect job where everyone has an oversized beanbag of an office chair, lunch is catered daily, and there's a whole arsenal of nurf paraphernalia in the board room. And cold beer on tap in the cafeteria. Oh, and your to-do list has cure world hunger. And... well, you get the point. Basically a place like IDO, not that they have beer on tap, but it's basically the kind of place I'd like to work if I could work anywhere I wanted.
Last semester I had probably the best class that I'll have in the entire program. As much as I like Porter's 5-forces and to use terms such as paradigm shift and functional frameworks in my daily vernacular of BS MBA mumbo jumbo, a lot of the shit thrown at MBA programs and MBA candidates is pretty fair: Great business leaders business school does not make. But last semester, I took a class on business formation and new venture development. My professor was a seasoned venture capital manager and financier as well as an accomplished entrepreneur; this class was almost more about life than it was about business. The key take home message, at least for me, was that you can't be taught entrepreneurship as much as you can learn from other peoples entrepreneurial exploits. Basically, you get to learn about all the myriad of ways a financier/partner/your own mother will screw you when it comes to starting a venture - I'm being dramatic, but you can really get the idea of how wisdom comes with age when you've got old timers telling how many times and ways they've been duped (or even how they did it on sending end).

We had a speaker every week who shared all their war stories. I'm not going to get into too many details about the stereotypes associated with the personalities of entrepreneurs and the details debunking those stereotypes - like everything else, they come in all shapes, sizes, and flavors. I'm also not going to cover how they they were all pretty smart, creative, and so on. However, I will note that, in almost every case, these entrepreneurs all made their mints through impeccable timing. One rode the telecom deregulation wave of 70's the, another got great deals on some real estate in the 80's. The point? Timing is everything.

I think I'll continue on this topic sometime in the future, but for now, this is a good segue into the next part of this three part series. Social-media, Web 2.0, whatever you want to call it, the timing is right for this whole thing to make a mint for some people.

Stay tuned and leave a comment with your thoughts.