If you’ve never heard of Gary Vaynerchuk, you should check him out. He’s one of today’s great marketers that get’s it. Gary’s latest post is about storytelling. It’s about the ways that a company or brand connects with customers in 2013 is not the same as it was in 1998, 2004 or even 2010. Storytelling in 2013 is a must read for entrepreneurs & marketers in any industry.
If you really want to known how to use Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, Instagram, Vine, Snapchat, Youtube and every other tool invented and not yet invented then you should watch Gary’s talk at Elevate NYC 2013.
I first learned about Gary through his Keynote Speech at Inc 500 Seminar in 2011. It’s an hour long but it’s worth your time. Check it out.
In this digital age we live in today, entire industries are being disrupted by new business models & new technology more than they have since the beginning of the industrial age. To understand what I mean, look at what these companies have done in these industries.
Skype – Skype brought free global calling to the masses, cutting significantly into the long distance business of the telecom industry. Skype also made video conferencing mainstream, something you would think would have come from one of the global telecom giants but didn’t.
Apple – The iphone and smartphones in general have disrupted many industries including land lines, watched, alarm clocks, compasses, printed mapping, dicta-phones, portable music, photography and the retail music industry just to name a few. This will continue as the invention of the App economy works to reinvent many activities.
Wikipedia – Wikipedia, the free online encyclopedia has disrupted this industry so much that the former market leader Encyclopædia Britannica ended print production after 244 years in 2012.
Amazon – Amazon has disrupted the book publishing & retailing industry significantly and even the cloud services industry which isn’t that old. Amazon continues to disrupt with many of it’s new products and services.
Change is the only constant and if the past 30 years says anything, the disruption is just beginning which is exciting for those that like to disrupt the status quo.
Education: There is a ton of value created by educating the masses in emerging and under-developed markets and those able to capture this value will do very well.
Construction: 3D printing is on the cusp of becoming a mainstream phenomenon. And yet, contractors are still driving their big trucks over to Home Depot.
Insurance: Micro and Peer insurance (everything can be insured, and people can insure other people)
Water rights and distribution: the clean water we are polluting for natural gas wells will soon be worth more than any form of gas
Loans: who gives them and how people get them (micro and peer financing)
Prime Time TV lineup: this will be all on demand and will change TV advertising forever
The legal profession: Simple contracts could be generated and processed by machine at far, far lower cost than a lawyer’s hourly rate. Some legal documents could be modeled as graphs of conditions and outcomes, which could then be compared with tree-diff algorithms and annotated with other data.
Intellectual Property: Consider the black box of patent applications, as well as the aftermarket (or lack thereof) for IP. “Patent Troll” is the latest buzz word; individuals or firms pick up bulk lots of IP on the secondary market and file suit against major companies for infringement, hoping for a big win. However, what if there were a more transparent and readily accessible market for IP?
Data Informatics: Corporations and professional services firms can pay upwards of six-figures for limited (annual or even monthly) access to certain specialized data stores. While some data pools are proprietary, pulling information from truly unique sources that cannot be duplicated, others are currently providing nothing more than the service of aggregation and dissemination of publicly available data.
Insurance: It is a black box, from the way in which “risk” is calculated by individual companies, to the way in which claims are assessed for validity and payout. Having just received new insurance, I am reminded of the obscure legalese used in even the most basic of customer facing communications – I dare you to show me an insurance company that is transparent in its communications, or even one with a customer experience better than that of an armed robber.
Politics: Campaign spending alone stretches into the billions when looking at the top 2-3 levels of government. Consider aggregate spending on campaigns at all levels, in addition to significant sums spent on lobbying and other related activities. Disruption would certainly be difficult in this space, but there are examples of companies already attempting, and succeeding in some cases, to disrupt particular verticals.
Real Estate: The fact that a 5% commission is extracted by the brokers for matching buyers and sellers is today’s information age is outrageous. The buy side of the market is very opaque with little visibility into who is interested in buying what and where. Crack that nut and you are the next Zuckerburg.
Moving industry: A 16 billion/year industry formed mostly from small players. 50 companies have 45% of the market. The rest are small players, companies with under 10 employees.
Packaging: In USA alone the CPG industry size is $2Trillion + ! Anywhere between 10% to 40% of that money is spent for the packaging of the product. That is the cardboard, polythene, plastic, paper etc meant for covering the actual product.
Recycling: There’s still so much we can do to recycle effectively. There’s a huge opportunity here, but I wonder if we’ll capitalize on it only after we reach a higher level of scarcity.
Landfill Resource Reclamation: As we continue to come to terms with resource scarcity, we’ll dig deeper into our own trash heaps to reclaim re-usable materials.
Battery Technology: If we can make tiny batteries that never have to be recharged and that don’t cause a nuclear melt down we will advance tremendously.
Fast Food: The fast food industry is known to deliver more than a quick ready to go meal. Fast food also delivers some of the highest calorie foods eaten during a typical day. fast healthly food will change this industry.
Software Operating Systems: The cloud is gaining ground quickly. OS’s that don’t require booting, installing, or updating by the user are surely preferred over those that do.
Rare Earth Metals: This enormous industry, it has mostly been pushed into China were extraction labor costs are low enough to be economical. However, with >50lbs of rare earth metals under the hood of your typical Prius or EV – substitutes are needed as China cuts supply (recently announced that <50% of China-mined rare earth metals were available for export).
Payments: While PayPal never quite lived up to it’s vision of displacing the major processors (Amex, Visa, MasterCard), this area is beginning to heat up again. 2%+ cost for each transaction is the reason $24T of B2B transactions are still completed using paper check.
Low Cost Distributed Energy and Sanitation solutions: Developing countries have a large need for dirt cheap, compact local energy and sanitation solutions, but the same applies to many of the developed countries too. Who wouldn’t like the prospect of generating their own energy with small solar panel or other green energy solution? This is especially true when the electric grid becomes unreliable or cost of energy hikes up rapidly
Diamond retailing: No major disruptions as of yet. This is a $72 billion a year market. Bluenile.com, the biggest online player, does about $350 million a year in revenues.
The gambling industry: Currently unregulated in half the world (Thailand, India etc) and most bettors go through bookmakers with high fixed odds. With online betting exchanges (Betfair, Smarkets) you get the best prices because of efficient markets and high volume/liquidity.
Sewing garment factories: as clothing companies get into “fast fashion”, there needs to be a better way to find, vet and analyze factory capacity and order.
Medical Devices: Most big companies have commoditized existing equipment (esp.Surgical Devices). Much of the new features being added are bells and whistles to justify a price hike or reduce liability. There are a lot of opportunities in their improvement and total replacement.
Healthcare: Simply put, healthcare is not working and it will get worse as the population ages. Effcientcies need to be created or this will bankrupt governments.
Weddings: A 74+ Billion dollar industry that’s fragmented and highly inefficient, probably the last industry left where consumers still shop from a trade show, magazine or google search.
Business productivity software: Right now, 100s of millions of people are using Microsoft Office on PCs, while their kids are using smartphones, tablets and web applications. The future belongs to collaboration and productivity apps designed for this new reality.
Taxation: The tax system is another system designed for and by accountants. If the congress can get a simple(r) tax system designed and implemented, the entire accounting system as we know it today will be turned on its head. (which means they’re probably pretty safe)
Automobile sales and marketing: Particularly at the dealer levels – if you’ve ever purchased a car you’ll realize this industry is completely broken. Car dealers are packed full of sales people who don’t understand the difference between sales and marketing, particularly online advertising.
Mattresses: They cost too much for what they are. Someone needs to disrupt this market.
Business Startups are the economic engines that drive innovation and progress in today’s hyper-connected global economy and it’s Startup Communities that are at the center of this revolution.
Startup communities are entrepreneur ecosystems. They’re being created around the world in small and large cities like Boulder Colorado, Vancouver, Iceland and Russia to name just a few. These communities are driving innovation, creating jobs and invigorating small business energy. Simply stated; start-up communities attract and breed entrepreneurs who go on to build companies like AirBnB, Dropbox, Sendgrid and many, many more.
Squamish is a small town with big ideas currently going through a transformation. It was once a forestry town that’s now transforming into an outdoor recreation tourism destination. It’s challenged in finding ways to create local jobs and to evolve into a sustainable, self sufficient community. The population is growing quickly but the local job market is not keeping pace.
Squamish is my community, I love this place and I want to see it succeed and prosper. It’s beautiful and has the ability to provide what I consider the best work-life balance opportunity in Canada. That may sound biased but for me and many others, it’s the truth. There’s an abundance of great activities at our doorstep and this is what mainly brought me to Squamish in the first place. However, the challenge to completing the work-life balance equation is local jobs. Like me, there are many people that commute to Vancouver or Whistler for work and therein lies the challenge.
How do we create jobs and transform Squamish into a great place to live, work and play?
The solution to me is simple in theory. Jobs come from businesses and businesses come from entrepreneurs so it seems logical to me to find, attract, nurture and support entrepreneurs. One proven way to do this is by establishing and growing an inclusive startup ecosystem.
Startup communities are not something new. Author, entrepreneur & investor, Brad Feld is the co-founder of TechStars; a mentor-driven business accelerator in Boulder Colorado that has succeeded at building one of the most successful models for startup communities. Boulder has an incredible Startup Community. Brad’s authored several books including Startup Communities, Do More faster, and Venture Deals. All great books I have read and that have inspired me and given me great knowledge and guidance on this subject.
“The effect on the local startup community in Boulder has been even more amazing than we anticipated. Boulder has developed a culture of sustained mentorship, where new founders place great value on seeking out mentors, and experienced entrepreneurs generously offer their time and expertise. This mindset makes the community better as a whole and it helps everyone in the community be more successful.”
To get a better understanding of exactly what I’m talking about, this great video gives a quick explanation of what a startup community is and what it needs to be successful. These lessons can be applied in Squamish or anywhere, to establish a local vibrant startup ecosystem.
The Key Points of making this a reality in any community
It takes long term commitment. (20 years) Creating a entrepreneurial ecosystem is a marathon not a sprint.
The entire entrepreneurial stack needs to be engaged.
Continually attracting and recruiting fresh people into the system
“In order for Techstars to be effective, there have to be the best mentors in the community who are ready and willing to participate and who understand the “give first” culture that is so important to successful startup communities. When you have a whole community behind you, rooting for you to win, and making connections for you—it’s a huge, unfair advantage.”
What’s being done for startups with Techstars in the past 7 years is fascinating and exciting in that the mentorship-driven accelerator model is and has been duplicated in over 1000 local communities around the world with great success. Techstars has helped fund over 100 companies a year, and they have more than $70 million under management.
If Squamish wants to create a sustainable economy well into the future, it needs to look at new solutions for creating jobs and I feel that creating an active, vibrant startup community is a long term solution to our present day challenge.
I have been working on a few mobile app concepts over the past few months and stumbled across the philosophy of Flat UI Design. I’ve been reading more and more about Flat Design and it’s quite interesting.
In the world of web and mobile UI design, flat design focuses on simple shapes, colors and typography to emphasize clarity and usability. It all started by a guy named Allan Grinshtein of LayerVault who wrote a post in 2012 named “The Flat Design Era“.
The Flat design style is really just the simplification of interface elements. It’s the Anti-web 2.0 in that it lacks extraneous elements and decoration like the famous web 2.0 bevels, gradients and textures with the goal of creating a clean, simple intuitive stripped down design that focuses on hierarchy.
One of the mobile apps I’m working on is targeted at the baby boomer generation that struggle with keeping up on how to use the latest mobile apps that the younger generation are using. Right away, I felt that using a flat UI design is the best way to go for this less that tech-savy target market. I wanted a simple design that is very easy to use and highly intuitive. Flat design seems like the way to go.
With Flat UI design being fairly new to me, I’ve been learning a lot about the why, and the how and I thought I would share with you the best resources for Flat Design that I have come across in my research.
There are many blogs out there touting the pros and cons of Flat Design.
One big indicator of it’s future adoption is that Apple as adopted the Flat Design for IOS 7. The icons on the right show Apple’s flat designed icons. As you can see, the bevels and textures have been significantly cut back.
Here are 6 great resources to learn more about Flat Design plus another 10 articles on Flat Design.
I just finished listening to The Lean Startup by Eric Ries. It’s a great book that’s targeted at startup entrepreneurs but I think the information also has great appeal and value for those that work and manage in large enterprises. Intrapreneurs could gain some wonderful insight into new ways of thinking and tackling problems of change, innovation and growth by learning from the experiences in startups.
I’ve been working in large organizations for many years and the same problems persist. Projects take too long, cost too much and don’t deliver on the original objectives. What I’ve noticed is that the same “solutions” continue to get suggested and applied with limited success.
The lean principles are a scientific approach to product development mainly borrowed from lean manufacturing made famous by Toyota.
After listening to the lean startup principles, there’s a lot that management could learn to help evolve their organizations to become more agile and innovative.
The principles aim to eliminate uncertainly, work smarter not harder, develop a minimum viable product and validated learning. The most interesting to me is the validated learning principle which is the opposite to large batch work that involves long drawn out analysis, planning and execution cycles. Here’s what Eric has to say about validated learning.
Validated Learning – Progress in manufacturing is measured by the production of high quality goods. The unit of progress for Lean Startups is validated learning-a rigorous method for demonstrating progress when one is embedded in the soil of extreme uncertainty. Once entrepreneurs embrace validated learning, the development process can shrink substantially. When you focus on figuring the right thing to build-the thing customers want and will pay for-you need not spend months waiting for a product beta launch to change the company’s direction. Instead, entrepreneurs can adapt their plans incrementally, inch by inch, minute by minute.
That last sentence is the take-away; “adapt their plans incrementally, inch by inch, minute by minute.”
In an ever changing uncertain world, you are almost certain to miss the mark if you spend months and months analyzing and planning as the world beneath your feet is constantly changing.
Entrepreneurs power the economy by creating businesses that drive innovation, create jobs and lead people to do amazing things. Business Schools over the past 15 years have increased their focus on entrepreneurship offering all kinds of programs to help people learn how to start businesses and this is great but I feel we need to start this education process at a younger age.
Our antiquated public education system doesn’t do enough to create and develop entrepreneurs. All those kids we see starting lemonade stands and lawn mowing businesses in their early teens need to be exposed to entrepreneurship, mentors and the tools to test their ideas.
This post was originally inspired by a tweet I read about Camp Inc, a specialty overnight camp focused on entrepreneurship and business in Boulder Colorado. The idea is relatively simple. Campers live on the University of Colorado campus and have daily interactions with worldly mentors as they learn to build a company in an industry of their choice. How cool is that?
When I was younger I took part in an organization called Junior Achievement and it was a great experience. A bunch of us pre-teens created a company called Beadable that manufactured and sold Xmas ornaments. We learned about the legal structure of a business, created a board, established roles in the company, created a vision and plans and then we executed. It was very similar to the incubator concept we see in the tech startup industry.
Maybe the solution is to create schools with similar models used by tech incubators like TechStars.
The TechStars model provides entrepreneurs with all the tools and assistance they need to build a new business including seed financing. They invest $118K in each company through $18K in seed funding and an optional $100K convertible debt note. They also provide three months of intensive top-notch mentorship, incredible perks that can include; PR, Legal, HR advise, web hosting and eCommerce services and the chance to pitch to angel investors and venture capitalists at the end of the program.
This model has been proven to create billion dollar companies and thousands of good paying jobs. In a world where economic uncertainty is the norm, entrepreneurship has emerged as a genuine solution to boost and sustain economic recovery.