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Stunted By Reality Just another know-it-all talking about life, business, technology, sports and music.

24Apr/14Off

Taking orders should not be a problem for entrepreneurs

I was once in a conversation with an army officer who managed to form a pretty accurate assessment of the type of person that I am (entrepreneurial, full of ideas) without me having actually mentioned what I do.

So he asked me if I would ever work in a corporation, to which I replied that I would and that I had previously done that. Thinking about it later I realised that his question was more about whether or not I have a problem taking orders and if that would stop me working for someone else. That is to say, if you're entrepreneurial are you capable of working for other people?

It's a very interesting question which I thought about last week when Pascal Finette over at The Heretic wrote a post about encouraging more people to become entrepreneurs.

..many of our brightest students all around the world choose instead the perceived "safe" path of employment at Big Corp.

Even as an entrepreneurial person myself I don't think that starting your own business is a necessary requirement to being an entrepreneur. The mindset and method is more important than the title of founder. Google and Tesco both owe a great deal of their early success to two people who did not found the companies. I would class Eric Schmidt and Terry Leahy as great examples of entrepreneurs (or business people).

That is the reason why I answered to my officer friend that "no I do not have a problem taking orders". What I have a problem with is taking orders to advance a cause (or company) that I don't believe in.

29May/13Off

NDAs – Nothing doing anyway

Non-disclosure agreement.

"I thought you said it was revolutionary? It's tripod!"

I subscribed to the spoof startup blog Vooza the other day and duly received my first email today, which was a sketch about the overuse of Non-Disclosure Agreements in startup-land.

A couple of hours later I was on Facebook and I saw an appeal from a friend for an NDA template. Now being an entrepreneurial guy myself I confess I have previously thought that ideas are everything. So I commented as much and thought the gist of what I wrote was worth re-blogging.

As someone who has signed numerous NDAs and who has also made others sign my own NDAs, I get where he was coming from. No one does original ideas any more and especially not in the Zimbabwean business community with its multitude of hair salon and bar 'tycoons'. However, I have now learnt that ideas are never worth as much as the execution. The person who succeeds in business is always the one who executed the idea well. Therefore, an idea done well is better than any NDA because no one will copy it if they can't do it better than you.

 

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31May/12Off

I quite fancy TheFancy.com

I've just seen a review on Venturebeat about a photo sharing and discovery website called Fancy. It's sort of like Pinterest but with the inbuilt ability to purchase items in the picture or book hotels and flights to the places depicted. The nugget is that it all seems to have been done in a non-intrusive way which still puts the user experience first and the commerce distinctly in the background.

For some reason the author of the Venturebeat article doesn't like this and he thinks they should have done the classic start-up move of concentrating on the users and finding a business model later. To be honest I never believe it when start-ups like Twitter et al pull this move. To me it just means that either they've got a cool but useless technology which no one will pay to use or that they will put ads on their app, but only after fooling 10 million people that they won't ever pimp them to the highest bidder.

Fancy haven't done anything new but they've obviously looked at similar apps and wondered if it all could have been done better. That's something which I've mentioned on this blog as one of the hallmarks of a solid business idea. I personally don't really use photo discovery apps apart from the odd time I stumble onto a great Flickr stream which I'll fully explore. But if I did I wouldn't mind if Fancy offered me the option to buy the stuff in the photo in a very discreet way that doesn't take away from the experience. I'm not talking Google text ads here people!

I think they may be onto something which Facebook, Google and Flickr would love to have done. Now look out for the Fancy guys to pimp themselves to one of those companies and get a decent bag of money for their start-up; which is entirely fine by me as long as they don't pimp me around. Check them out.

Source Venturebeat

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10Jan/12Off

The screwing game: Cable companies vs Fred Wilson

New York Knicks logo

Perenially on the cusp

Fred Wilson on AVC recently wrote a blog post about how he ended up 'illegally' streaming a New York Knicks match because there was no 'legal' way for him to pay for it without actually going to the match. In that situation he had been willing to pay even $25 for the priviledge. The post is aptly titled #screwcable!

In and amongst the support for what Fred did were some well argued contrarian views. The quote below is not one of them though it raises an important issue.

The players, owners, league spend money to enter into contracts with cable companies and specialized networks, who in turn negotiate with advertisers to bring viewers an entertainment medium. They have real costs to all of this. But because someone doesn't like that there are fees or limitations or other obstacles within the creating group's model, it's okay to simply "hack" in and take what one likes?

I agree that a lot of planning and investment goes into making a profitable business out of a sports team or even any other entertainment performance like a music album or whatever. Those investors and operators are perfectly entitled to charge what they want and how they want in order to recoup their costs.

For me the big caveat in all the above that turns someone like Fred into a 'pirate' is the fact that during business planning a conscious decision has been made to have this sports package not appeal to him. That is through a combination of pricing, segmentation rights, down to stadium capacity, match day scheduling and location. When all is said and done the rights holders have put together a package which they believe will earn them the most revenue possible in order to recoup costs that they have deemed as appropriate for this enterprise.

In simple terms; when selling their package rightsholders are consciously saying #screwyou to a certain percentage of interested parties. Nothing wrong with that. It's their prerogative and a balance HAS to be found.

What I find interesting is that there seems to be a belief that it's okay to then go after these people who have already been told to screw themselves as if they actually mattered to the business model. They don't really; and any plan should not have taken into account revenue from someone who has been told where to go or revenue lost by that person consuming that service in a way that does not deprive other willing buyers. The fact is no business can sell all their products to everybody all of the time. Someone has to be out of the loop even though digital products make that scenario theoretically possible.

Naturally there are people who infringe copyright and would have been perfectly able to legally consume it. It is wrong of course, but I believe that every business model has to try to have low enough barriers to allow people to take up the product. In a previous post I referred to the concept of a consumption threshold. This is something that is generally not a feature of high quality digital content, though Louis C.K seems to have found a balance between price and protection and he is succeeding despite those who are saying #screwyou to him. It's probably because he only tried to 'screw' relatively few people in the first place!

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10Nov/11Off

The Occupiers need to play the system at it’s own game #OWS

A question needs to be asked to all the people who have recently taken it upon themselves to occupy public places in vague protests which judging by their locations we have to guess is dismay at the conduct of banks.

That question was asked by a commenter on a post on AVC.com:

Why do you protest against the thousands of individuals and organizations that are legally taking advantage of the system, rather than protesting (at) the SOURCE which is the system itself?

I took it that the commenter meant that the best way to protest the system is to join the democratic queue like everyone else including the racists have done. Lord knows democracy is not perfect, but there is no denying that it does afford a platform and a voice to people with a cause. You have to applaud what organisations like the Green Party in the UK have done in turning themselves from a community initiative into a political party with an actual seat in Parliament. Maybe it is because that struggle is long and hard that our modern day slackers do not turn to democracy, but more likely it is the fact that however well meaning their wishes are, there just aren't enough people who identify with whatever it is they are protesting.

Yo man, I'm actually a revolutionary. I made my money selling placard paper in the great protests of 2011. I had to put on a small margin to enable expansion and accidentally became stinking rich.

I don't know but I'd guess that most people do not think that things are so broken that wholesale changes are required. I believe the cost of living has been rising faster than income and with the lack of job creation opportunities to make a decent living are less than they were five years ago. If most people are honest we'd realise that opportunities are less than five years ago rather than actually being non-existent. And that dip in opportunities is something that most would also agree is a short-term blip in an otherwise longer-term improvement in the life chances of all people on Earth.

I don't know for sure but I am willing to bet that a poor kid born in 2015 will be better off than a poor kid born in 2000.

Another commenter points out quite rightly that the real problem is..

... the default position for NOT working hard is very different for the rich than the poor. A poor kid who doesn't work hard, is fucked. A rich kid who doesn't work hard, not so much.

(But) Yes, if you work hard, you can succeed.

The same commenter goes on to say that what we should strive for is that all people start from a level playing field. In other words equality. I don't buy that. People can never be equal. It's a fact of life.

Even as an ardent supporter of capitalism I admire the thinking behind Socialism and Communism. However I just don't think it would work on any macro-level better than capitalism.

In the end too many people get bogged down in worrying about the state of things without looking at it in perspective. Most times if we look at the recent trends you'll actually discover that things are getting better. That's the only thing I personally worry about. Things are fucked up right now, but are they getting better?

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6Oct/11Off

If you have a great idea someone has already thought of it

The Big Idea - Light Bulb & Socket

Now that's a bright idea!

I'm always coming up with business ideas based on my own experiences and needs. One of the best I've had recently was a phone application to document the things that my kids say and do. Actually it's third best idea I've had recently.

The idea is to be able to compile a document or repository of the funny, weird and wonderful things that my (our ) children say, because they do say a lot of funny stuff. I already take a lot of pictures and video of them but sometimes I just want to note down a quote that I found funny. My solution was to build an application that allows you to store little things like that; notes, pictures etc. and you would be able at a future date to have it all published into a book. Perhaps even an annual about your kids.

I think it's a great idea, and one that I don't even need to ask what your opinion is because frankly anything to do with kids is going to sell. The hard bit would be the marketing but that's the case in any business. However, women are probably the best demography to market because they talk so much. If one gets to like something, best believe that the whole world is going to hear about. Plus most women don't really shop around. I've always said that if I sold cars I'd sell only pink hatchbacks! Anyway, the idea is also great because lets face it, which parent doesn't think that their kids are the funniest and cutest, despite us constantly observing at first hand other seemingly deluded parents?

So I got round to checking the idea, as I normally do with all my ideas. No matter how good your idea is always check that no one has yet done it. I've said before on this blog that a good idea either solves a problem, or copies another good idea well, or exploits lack of market knowledge or serves a neglected market.

All those factors mean that if you have had a good idea then someone has already done it; if it's a great idea then ten people are already doing it. If no one is doing it you have to ask yourself why.

So after Googling my idea, I found that someone has already done it. Not only that, but they have done it in almost exactly the way I envisioned it. I'm not really upset though, but just impressed with the other guys execution. My fan-boy brother is away so I don't have an iPhone to test their app, but it looks good. And one thing I believe is that if I can't do something better than the other guys then there's no point doing it. Take a bow Kid's Quip Journal.

*Okay I have to admit I could have come up with a better name than that, but touché!

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14Sep/11Off

Women leaders

So new research shows that women prefer to compete in teams and tend to compete better when they do. The researchers claim that this is evidence that as human beings we should alter our criteria for selecting leaders in order to give women a better chance. I find that very funny to be honest. Am I the only one taking from this that this research effectively reinforces why less women should be leaders?

The point of being a leader is that the buck should stop with them and they must shoulder responsibility for achieving the goals of their subjects. I believe that a leader should never have anyone to pass the buck to or else when the shit hits the fan they will simply pass the buck.

If women only want to lead as part of a team then they shouldn't be anywhere near the top. Let the ball-breaking women who aren't afraid to say "fuck you right back" to Gordon Ramsay lead; and let those who want to hide behind others stay at home where they'll probably do better calling their husband every evening to ask him what he wants for dinner.

Plenty of companies were founded by two or more people, but I can't recall any that had more than one person in the top job.

"Okay, all those in favour of delegating decision-making please shrug your shoulders."

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20Aug/11Off

HP’s margin envy will be the death of them

Palm Pre shot from Mobile World Congress.

The first ever phone with a lip.

It didn't come as a surprise when HP decided to kill off all it's WebOS related projects. From the time they paid $1.2 billion dollars for Palm in order to get their hands on the by all accounts 'great' operating software they have consistently made the  wrong moves.

With the company making most of their money from selling hardware to other companies it was always a dumb move in my opinion to get rid of the Palm brand once the acquisition had gone through. Palm had pedigree in the high-end consumer market that formerly crossed over into the business user market way before RIM ever got there. It didn't stop HP from renaming all the Palm devices with the HP prefix which I think never had the same brand cache to compete with Apple. HP definitely skipped a beat there as they could have had their own 'Lexus' of the mobile world. A brand with which they could package the best part of their low-end stuff in a shiny slightly different case and still have users falling over themselves to buy it in the mis-guided belief that it was somehow more exclusive because it was pricier. Works every time in these days were even us poor people can buy a Mercedes or an iPhone without paying a penny upfront.

In addition I think that Palm had only lost the battle with Apple simply because their pockets were not as deep. The only thing they probably needed from HP was their money. Can you imagine where Palm would be now if HP had poured in another billion, given the Palm access to their manufacturing base and stayed well clear? The initial Palm Pre wasn't good hardware, but I think there was enough to work on and if they'd simply been given the money to match Apple's annual release cycle and copy HTC's lineup of all-touch and qwerty keyboard handsets, they might have made an impact.

Only 18 months after the right move was stunted by the wrong strategy we now hear that HP are throwing the towel in following the dismal sales of the WebOS tablet. Not only that, but they are also looking to spin off the whole PC and hardware business and acquire the UK software house Autonomy. Leo Apotheker the CEO who has only been in the job less than a year has called the moves and it seems that just like Mr Elop at Nokia he already had pre-conceived ideas about what direction he wanted to go before he joined.

I can see where he's going with this. He wants HP to be making high margins. Well higher than they are right now and higher than you can get flogging hardware to corporates. It's admirable but sometime you just have to stick to making money the best way you know how. There's isn't much evidence that HP know the services and software business or that they can stake out a claim against, Microsoft, Apple and whilst fighting away the millions of small start-ups with new and innovative ways to do the same things cheaper and faster.

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15Apr/11Off

How to blag a football club and other lessons

I'm a great believer in the theory that football clubs are not a business in the true sense of the word. They are not set up to maximise profits which is sort of the point in all other businesses. Having said that, there are many business models open to them to survive and not just the one endorsed by UEFA, the European governing body.

The most well-known model is of course the benefactor model, in which one person buys a club for his own personal enjoyment using money made from business elsewhere. Benefactors are not just common in football but in pretty much every aspect of life. It's true that most people have much more money than they could spend, and in general it's good clean fun for the rich. Or if you're in Colombia, it's a good way to clean dirty money.

It does end in disaster now and again, but most times you can see the signs well before the proverbial hits the fan. But like a geriatric who has suddenly caught the eye of a hot young thing, it can be hard for us fans to distinguish between a Katherine Hepburn or a Katie Price.

Case in point the story of Craig Whyte a Scottish 'billionaire' who is trying to take over Glasgow Rangers. In fact he has been working so hard at it that it's been 6 months since it was made public that he's trying, and guess what...he's still trying. I'm all for due diligence, but taking over a public company really shouldn't take that long, unless of course this guy doesn't have the money.

When I heard about Mr Whyte's interest in buying Rangers, my initial reaction was...'Who?' Then I heard he was a British billionaire and thought that something wasn't adding up. Britain doesn't have many billionaires and it'd be hard never to have heard of the name of one of them.

My only guess is that he must be one of those people who buys football clubs as an investment or a blagger who wants to buy the club, load it with debt and pay himself a handsome wage. Either way it's not very clever and will probably end up in disaster. A quick Google search can confirm this.

Here are a few extracts...

…….Craig Whyte Founder of Vital UK Ltd . In voluntary liquidation.
…….Director of LM Logistics Group . . . in administration

Was accused of failing to pay his employees' wages and multi-million pound debts owed by a string of companies, all of which he is directly linked to

Has a defunct website for one of the companies he claimed as one of his premier businesses

….Cairnwell Investments Ltd based at Aldermary House lists Craig Thomas Whyte as Director. In October, Cairnwell successfully applied to cancel an official move to have the firm struck off the companies register and dissolved.

…also based at Aldermary House is Merchant Corporate Recovery PLC, which is facing an “Active Proposal to Strike Off”. The firm’s accounts are said to be “overdue”. Its company secretary is Craig Whyte, while Craig Thomas Whyte is listed as a director.

The above is the typical trail left by all unsuccessful scammers. Rangers be warned! You heard it here first.

26Jan/11Off

The UEFA and Arsenal love-in is doomed to fail

Sometimes you really wonder how people make into positions of power given their lack of reasoning.

There are many things that our leaders can do without but rationale is not one of them. The folks clowns at UEFA (and FIFA too) have form for coming out with ridiculous statements, but they never seem to amaze in their quest to out-clown Krusty.

The latest one is in relation to the new regulations requiring football clubs to break-even over a rolling three-year period or risk a possible ban from UEFA competitions. It's designed to stop clubs running themselves into debt and financial ruin.

UEFA general secretary Gianni Infantino has now come out and said that clubs need to adopt the Arsenal model because "Ten years ago Arsenal reported less income than Chelsea, Liverpool and Newcastle," Infantino added. "Now it is more than those clubs and in 2009 more than double Newcastle's."

This is pure misguided BS. If Infantino would only take a moment to think of all the big transfer fees that Arsenal generates he'd realise that the clubs that UEFA and Wenger criticize for financial doping are the same clubs who have paid out those huge fees directly to Arsenal therefore increasing their revenues. The question is, where would Arsenal's profits be without the sugar daddy money from Manchester City, AC Milan and Juventus? Or the debt money from Barcelona?

The 'Arsenal model' circa 2020.

p.s. The regulations themselves are also bollocks because sport is not a business in the traditional sense. Never has been never will be. But that's for another rant.