For @iamagile‘s and my honeymoon we finally got to hit Italy. We’ve both travelled extensively for our careers in Asia, Europe and Australia but never got to see Italy. For almost three weeks we visited Florence, Venice and Rome. First impressions? The art history here is unbelievably deep and wide. Venice is not a place to go drinking heavily after dinner. Sidewalks end abruptly in the canals with no warning. The people? Extremely friendly and helpful. Food? The further off the main streets you get the better, and less expensive, the food gets and the chianti is plentiful everywhere. The only part that got under my skin is a little bit is when I ordered a large beer (about 2 pints.) The response I invariably got was “You want an American size beer. Ok.” After a couple of these experiences I eventually started responding with “No, I want an Irish sized beer. Thank you.” Go back again? Sure, I’d just avoid Rome. A little dirty, people were ambivalent, food was pretty marginal. But the Vatican and surrounding architecture were absolutely incredible and you could spend at least three days in line waiting to get into the Vatican Museum. If you’re up for that sort of experience, be my guest – I’ll stick with Florence, Venice, and if I can trick @iamagile into it, Modena. I’ll just say it’s on the way to Milan.
So please stop with the analogy. Writing software is like writing music. Even the most gifted of composers can struggle for days, weeks, or months to get movements to work together. Equating writing software to putting PVC pipes together or framing a room is idiotic. I’ve lost track of how many exec’s have said “How hard can it be to get software to do this…?” Well, for starters, go write Hendel’s Messiah from memory. No? Try Beethoven’s Minueto Allegro Molto e Vivace. Because that’s what you’re asking for every time you want a custom piece of software written. Ok, maybe not that hard, but just try writing Chopsticks from memory and you’ll see what I mean. This is not that simple. This is hard, detailed work that requires focus and mastery of the most obscure details. And most of all it requires time. Time to think, to solve, to test (to listen to) again and again until it’s right. If you want it fast then you want it wrong. If you want it right then it takes time.
This post is a little different. It’s about earning self-respect. Respect from others comes from winning or being honest even when it runs against your best interests. Self-respect is earned from winning over yourself. It comes from honest introspection, recognizing your own dragons. And then slaying their asses.
This week my wife called me a ‘chronic procrastinator’ and in a sense, she’s right. I put off the shitty tasks and do the fun stuff. The brain challenging, can I figure this stuff out kind of work. The mundane, every day, boring, administrivia crap? Nope, not for me. But if you let the administrivia go long enough, you’ll die under the weight of the un-done. How did I beat it? I discovered a little book called One Small Step Can Change Your Life. The premise of the book is that your brain puts up defense mechanisms to protect you from pain. Ok, I can definitely relate to that. Unfortunately, there comes a time when the pain of not having it done overwhelms the pain of not doing it. Then you have to put in the Herculean effort of putting all the fun stuff aside and knocking it out. Taxes are the obvious one. Going to the damn dentist is another. But there’s a trick to all of this that the book points out. Take the big-hairy-I-don’t-want-to-do-it-thing and break it down into the most minuscule of tasks. I’ll take an example we’re all familiar with: writing a term paper. For me, I wrote these the night before it was due. What I turned in sucked and was just enough to get me at the top of the class. But it was excruciatingly painful. Today I do a lot of systems analysis, a lot of research and detail work. Fun? Nope. So what I do is break it down into tiny, insignificant tasks. My brain doesn’t throw up the warning signs saying it’s going to be painful to pull this together and instead, does each tiny task. The result? Great work, delivered early. Essentially what I do it look at what needs to be delivered, decide f it requires A, B, or C level work and then break the deliverable into sub-tasks accordingly. The higher the grade of work, the more sub-tasks I create. If it’s C level work, I create a handful of quick, easily completed tasks and get that shit off my plate. If it’s A level work, I create a lot (a shit-ton actually) of low-level tasks and prioritize them. Understand a client’s systems? Identify the players and their roles, talk to them, get their perspective, take notes. From there you may come up with 150-200 follow up items. But the secret here is that each of those are miniscule. Make a call, talk about X, write down Y. All stuff that doesn’t trigger your brain into thinking that the thing you’re working on is a damn mountain. Before you know it, you’re at item 200 and you’re done. It’s ridiculously easy. Every time you catch yourself starting to procrastinate on a particular task, it’s because you’re working on to many itms all at once and you’re not thinking small enough. Break it down more. Spend an hour each morning making the smallest, most innocuous tasks imaginable. If you’re a “chronic procrastinator” you’ll have this dragon beaten before you know it. And well before your brain can throw up a barrier for you.
For me, this was my last real dragon to conquer.
One of the things I picked up when I worked in North Carolina was a love of barbecue. Over the past couple of months
I’ve been picking up a Boston butt when I see one with a good fat cap and putting going low and slow with it. It’s turning out so well that we no longer go out for barbecue. It’s provided a good distraction from everything else that’s been going on over the past year. Breaks are needed. New (or in this case, old) experiences are needed. And sometimes it’s just for fun. Maybe a little healthy competition now and then too. But for right now, it’s breakfast.
Ignite Tampa Bay is returning in 2013. Twenty slides. Fifteen seconds each.
All you get is five minutes to tell us what you’re passionate about. The venue, date and time are all open at this point.
What’s Tampa Bay excited about? What are you really passionate about? Enlighten us, share your story with us.
More details will be coming on the FB page as we get this together for the coming year. The 2012 event was very well done and had some tremendous speakers. A bit of a different audience than we’re accustomed to for BarCamp events but that’s probably a great thing at this point.
I’ve heard this three or four times over the last six months, not only with ChannelLauncher but with other companies that are getting off the ground in Tampa. Originally my response was (at least when this was said about ChannelLauncher) to defend. “Yes but here’s our approach…” It’s become clear to me that the people stating this don’t understand innovation and have probably never read Crossing the Chasm. Here’s how this plays out. Small company grows into big company. Big company focuses on larger and larger clients. The smaller clients get left behind, their needs aren’t met and begin to look for alternatives. Tiny company builds tiny product for tiny group of clients. Tiny company improves on tiny product and becomes larger company with larger product and starts eating away at big company’s core customer base. Big company acquires said company. This is always happening. Now my response to “Google could do that.” is to ask what the person saying this actually does. Regardless of the response, 90% of the time I can say in complete honesty that Amazon, Microsoft, Google, Facebook, you name it, they already do it. You’re an investor? Google does that [Google Ventures]. You’re a business consultant? McKinsey does that and is bigger than you’ll ever be. You’re a social media expert? @MissDestructo does that and has more followers than you do. The fact is this, yes a [insert fortune 500 company name here] could do this. But is it cost effective for them to really go after your potential clients? It may in fact be better for the large company to let you build the market and get the clients – then acquire your business. So the next time someone tells you “Google could do that” you can, if you’ve done your homework and understand the market, tell them it’s more cost effective for Google to acquire you. See what their response to that one is.
Not from all the rain we’re getting. Not from the RNC. What is about to explode is the number of startups getting off the ground. Unfortunately they will look like nothing the area has ever seen before. We’re largely known for medical companies and real estate but a growing core of entrepreneurs are bringing new companies and products to market that don’t even closely resemble these verticals. From BumperCrop and TourWrist to ChannelLauncher (my personal favorite) and Carvoyant, the landscape is slowly changing. And I say “unfortunately” because the infrastructure (for example, Capital) isn’t in place yet for companies like these. Tampa’s 60/20 Plan as well as Gazelle Lab are working to change that but it will take time. In fact it will take 20 years to change the face of the entrepreneurial community in Tampa Bay. I peg year 1 as 2008, the first year of BarCamp Tampa Bay, so we still have 16 years before we can really call ourselves a successful entrepreneurial community. Many have argued with me that it will only take 5 years to complete the transition. They’re dead wrong. Here’s why. We need three key components to make this happen
- Technology Professionals
- Angel Investors
We have a small number of entrepreneurs, the risk takers that can distinguish a ‘good idea’ from a ‘good business idea’ and figure out how to build a product and a company around it. Then there are the technologists – developers, architects and sys admins that build great stuff. There’s plenty of them in the area but relatively few are engaged in the community. And then there’s the Angel Investors. This group is virtually non-existant for tech startups looking for seed stage funding in Tampa Bay. These three groups form a symbiotic relationship when it comes to starting a tech company, they need to work in unison and be in direct contact. Today they are not, not even close. It will take time, trust, missed opportunities and big successes to bring all three together, in particular the Angel component. That’s what will take 20 years to build a thriving entrepreneurial community. So Tampa Bay really is ready to take off and if you’re one of these three groups, you’ve got a huge opportunity to directly impact the direction of the community. Just realize that the goal line is in the year 2028.
[UPDATE] We’ve rebranded ChannelShift to ChannelLauncher. Turns out that it wasn’t obvious to our (potential)
customers just exactly what the hell we do for them. Using ChannelLauncher makes that a whole lot easier and it’s a
much smoother conversation to have when your brand name reflects what your product does. Fortunately we made the decision before it became a crisis and we based it on customer feedback as well. There were other things that fed into this decision but never assume that people will “just know” what you do. It’s always going to be obvious to you what your product does and how great it is. But when people are scratching their heads before you’re even off the first phone call with them, it’s time to reconsider.
A lot has been going on in the streaming video space over the past 12 months. A “rumored” TV from Apple is on the way, UI updates for the existing AppleTV as well as GoogleTV, Boxee and an upcoming one from Roku. Intel announcesthat they’re entering the streaming video platform arena, Ubuntu launches UbuntuTV and HULU is mid-season for one of it’s exclusive shows. With that inmind, we’re working to bring more great content to SmartTVs, Roku, Boxee, and other platforms. Since so much is happening so quickly, we’ve put up Tumblr [and Pinterest] accounts that will have the latest news and announcements about what’s coming to ChannelShift and how people can get the most out of Internet TV. Honestly, aside from Netflix and HULU, there’s not a lot of really awesome stuff out there, but that’s why this market is poised to explode over the next couple of years.
In February, @phillmckinney wrote an article about corporate anti-bodies and their effect on innovation. I’ve got a few thoughts on this… First off, if you’ve got a track record for seeing problems, coming up with solutions, figuring out how to make money at it and then convincing people to help you make them happen, start your own company. So few people can see the root cause of a problem and go for the throat to solve it that it’s one of the rarest of skills out there. Go make a lot of money for yourself and your family. Second, it’s the role of an organization to maintain the course of the organization and extend the profitability of the company. Things that get in the way or cause the organization to go off course are sidelined and then pushed out of that organization. Intrapreneurship, as defined by Guy Kawasaki, is really the antithesis of what the company is set up to do. It’s simply not realistic to believe that any mature organization is going to accept developing a product that kills the cash cow. Unless… it’s driven by the CEO and backed by the Board of Directors. That gives credibility, protection for the creative thinkers and innovators on staff, and it gives one more thing: the approval to take risks. Most mature companies are risk averse – they’re organized to extend the life of a product, optimize the sales process and in tough times, cut costs. The innovator is diametrically opposed to this. For that reason alone it’s my belief that intrapreneurship is a myth. If you are ready to strike out on your own then there’s a growing list of resources for you: Startup Weekend, Startup Bus (which just wrapped up at SxSW) as well as TechStars and lots of accelerator and incubator programs. If you’re in Tampa, StartupWeekend Tampa is launching on April 13, there’s Gazelle Lab and a really successful StartupBus just finished with BumperCrop placing second. Do you want to beat your head against a wall for somebody else, or do you want to do it for yourself and get even bigger reward?
In March, Paul Graham wrote a post about the top 7 most daring startup ideas. At number 4 was “Internet Drama” which discussed how video content delivery will be changing consumer’s viewing habits. He also identified two ways that this was likely to play out – either Netflix, HULU or a similar platform will continue to aggregate content from studios or a platform will provide streaming a-la-carte programming along with out of the box subscription services. The latter is exactly what ChannelShift does for video content providers. In my opinion, video distributed over Netflix or HULU builds the brands of the aggregators, not the content producers. It also makes it difficult to grow an audience and recognize increased revenue as a result. So what’s needed is a platform that allows video content with high production value (i.e. not cats swinging from a fan) to get to mobile, tablet, IPTV and ConnectedTV’s quickly and through a subscription payment method to consumers. Precisely what we’ve built with ChannelShift.
When I started the company a year ago I had no idea that it would be called the most daring of ideas. What I did see was the need for a company that focused specifically on what was happening in streaming technology and that could make it simple and profitable for companies to get access to it. So to me, it’s only a daring idea if you don’t break it down into smaller pieces and then start knocking them out. Face your most daring ideas head-on, I promise you it’s the most rewarding of accomplishments.