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Entrepreneurship Blogger: I just found a new entrepreneurship resource that I need to share. Mark Suster writes Both Sides of The Table as an entrepreneur turned VC. His writing is clear and he writes about things that all entrepreneurs need to read. I think I have “starred” his posts 4 or 5 times in the last several weeks as clear thinking about topics I care about.
Reminders: Do you sometimes send an email request out to someone and then forget about the fact that you are expecting something in return? Then a deadline passes and you say, “Where in the heck is that response from so and so?”. There is a simple new tool out there for free that will help you. It is called FollowUpThen. To use it is simple. Just add an email address in the form firstname.lastname@example.org to your cc: or bcc: list and the site will send a nicely formatted email after that time period has passed. If you add it to the cc: list, then if the recipient doesn’t reply all with the answer to your request, FollowUpThen will send both you and the recipient the reminder email. If you add it to the bcc: list, the reminder will be sent only to the originator of the email. The xdays can be any number of days, weeks, months, years or hours. The tool seems to me to be an elegant solution to a common problem.
Legal Aid: If there is one thing in this world that I love is a business success story. There are a lot of things that make me crazy, but one of them is lawyers who go the extra mile to make tons of money at someone else’s expense, damn the particular merits of a case. The latest Chicago entrepreneurial success story is Groupon. If you have never heard about them, they create a deal a day for each city that they are in (now up to well over 50 cities). If a minimum number of people sign up for the deal, it is a go. The deals are usually pretty great — normally 50% or more off of some service. Each day you get this little present in your email box describing the deal — a manicure, massage, dinner, auto show tickets or Cubs rooftop box are just some examples. I have used their service and absolutely love it. Its free to sign up and just choose each day whether a specific deal will work for you. Their customer service policies are unbelievable. If you have a problem, normally they will just refund your purchase price, but they have been known to work with their vendors to make alternative dates available or accept expired certificates. Nothing but good things.
So, what’s the problem? Well, a local law firm just filed a class action lawsuit claiming that Groupon systematically deceives their customers. Best retort I have seen in a while — Groupon is declaring a class action lawsuit against itself. Let them know if and how you were deceived and they will make it right. If only there were some procedural way to have a law firm punished, if found to be bringing frivolous lawsuits. This one certainly sounds frivolous to me.
New Product: I am very excited by the Square credit card processor for the iPhone (and maybe other devices with an audio plug). This product will revolutionize the way that people can conduct commerce. Not just businesses, but even person to person. The device is a small square credit card reader that plugs into the audio jack on the iPhone. There is software for the iPhone that will process the credit card and transfer money directly to the recipient’s bank account. Now the founders of Square have done some things right. They priced the software at $1 and the device is free. This makes it almost irresistible for anyone who wants to accept credit cards. Think of craft fairs, your lawn mowing teen or a Craigslist seller. The cost per transaction is reasonable (2.9%) and Square will even donate a penny per transaction to a charity of your choice. More details and a video here.
Knowledge: Steve Schwartz wrote a post on the 3 types of knowledge. While the language is not always appropriate for elementary school, he does explain clearly how these 3 types contribute to our general sense of ourselves.
Advice: Micah writes about giving advice. This one is going to be hard for me to do (given the name of this blog) as I love to give advice almost as much as Micah does, but if he can find a better way, I can try.
I haven’t done a recommended links post is a while and so here we go:
Seth: This week Seth Godin directed me to two very cool web resources that I urge you to take time to read and view.
The first is the video Lemonade. It deals directly with folks in the advertising agency business who have been laid off and how they found their next steps. Some people feel that it is talking about the need to start a new business, but my take is that it shows that you really can make Lemonade out of lemons if you pursue your dreams. The video is well made and totally engaging.
The second is a free e-book on pricing. How exciting can that be, you ask? Well, the author, Todd Sattersten who has developed the business book review site inbubblewrap, clearly explains the components of pricing, costing and especially margin. He also delves into the concept of free. All in all a very quick and information packed presentation. And the price is right!
The Brain: Harvard Business Review had a nice article on how the middle aged brain (of which I am the proud owner) has some inherent benefits as it relates to businesses. It is good to hear that while we sometimes can’t remember names, we have built other skills that can help us in the business world.
Microsoft: Microsoft’s perception in the marketplace has changed over the past 25 years. The New York Times has a nice article on what the company has done to put itself in their current market space. This is a good warning to Google as well as any other company that goes through significant growth.
In time for the holiday season (well, actually too late for Hanukkah) I give to each of you the following links:
- Seth Godin provides a free e-version of his latest book, What Matters Now, a compilation of short essays on single topics by a raft of 70 big thinkers. People like Chris Anderson, Jason Fried, Arianna Huffington, Kevin Kelly, Dan Ariely, Gina Trapani and Tim Sanders. Absolutely worth every penny
- Amazing story about how the IRS terrorizes audits a young mother who makes $10 per hour because they can’t believe that she can support herself on that income.
- Mark Cuban has an interesting idea on how to fund some of our most pressing problems. I think he is on to something. This type of tax has the benefit of being a very small amount on a huge number of transactions and will be almost invisible.
- Customer service and large companies. Go hand and hand like a horse and carriage? Not so much at American Airlines. See what happens when an employee reaches out to a customer who has some issues with their web site.
- If you ever have to give a big presentation and you want to add video clips of famous sayings from movies, you have to catch this site. There are over 12,000 clips and they are approved for use by the studios.
I was reminded recently that I haven’t done a links column is a while, so here goes for a few good reads:
- Seth Godin writes about funding for a business. The typical methods are debt (loan) or equity (stock). He proposes a third way that might make some funding sources happy. I am intrigued.
- Dustin Curtis writes about the science of entrepreneurship. This article was fun to read, but take a look at the rest of the articles on his blogazine. He is a talented User Experience designer and each article is beautiful and thoughtful. Also to be read are the two articles about American Airlines and their user experience. By the way, American Airlines fired the AA designer who wrote to Dustin.
- Fun logic test here: Are you a cognitive miser?
- For entrepreneurs out there who are having problems with marketing, here are over 100 marketing questions that will help you get started thinking about how to market your company (or yourself).
We need to take a break from all that Health Care stuff and I thought some fun links might be “just the ticket” as Jon Lovitz might say.
I can’t believe how Al Franken
created this hand drawn map
Fun: For trivia buffs, here is a tough quiz, using circular logic.
Politics: Another Sanctity of Marriage act for California? Maybe.
I haven’t done a good listing of links lately, so here you go…
Fun: Gotta love this picture…
Video: Regular readers know that I love Seth Godin. If you have never heard him speak, take an opportunity to view this video of a speech he gave last year to a software developer’s conference.
Management: Netflix, a company that I admire for a lot of really great things, has posted a slide deck of how their corporate culture works. It is long (128 slides), but it reads quickly. It is a must read for any entrepreneur trying to establish a coherent and successful culture.
Time: I read this article a couple of weeks back and it keeps coming back to me with a simplicity of the content and yet the relevance. Paul Graham writes about Maker’s Schedule and Manager’s Schedule.
Entrepreneurship: A few start-up related posts. First the twenty things that I wished I had known before I started my business. (Hat Tip: JL) Then, from a genuine internet star, Jessica Hagy, The Start-Up Checklist. Are you an entrepreneur or a hobbyist? Lastly, not exactly start-up specific, Seth has a good pithy blog post on Jello.
Big Picture: And small differences. The Washington Post op-ed today talks about statistical evidence that indicates that we should believe that the election numbers in Iran were fudged. Interesting conclusions.
Business: One of the internet’s success stories has to be Amazon.com. What a lot of people don’t realize is that there is a lot going on at Amazon behind the scenes to ensure that you as a consumer get the right information to buy the right products. And how they make money was an eye opener to me. This is one case where the answer to how can you sell products at a loss can truly be Volume!
Entrepreneurship: On the other side of the coin, Clear has stopped doing business. Joel writes about the lack of a change in business model that helped cause the failure of this company.
Behind the Scenes: Sometimes the government does it right. A couple of stories from the past several weeks have shown that our government does not necessarily have a tin ear when it comes to public opinion. First the story about President Obama writing a note to excuse a student, who was attending a Presidential speech, from class. Some of the people that I have talked to think that President Obama was being a smartass, but I believe that he took the time to talk one-on-one with a student in a very real and meaningful way. Another story was the US Navy allowing a group of top bloggers, including Robert Scoble and Guy Kawasaki to spend 24 hours on the USS Nimitz, an aircraft carrier. These bloggers were able to tell a story of the servicemen and servicewomen who work on our behalf and provide a very interesting group of reports including photos, podcasts and videos.
Entrepreneurship: Inc. Magazine wrote a nice piece on Paul Graham, founder of Y Combinator. When I grow up, I want to be like Paul.
Thought for the Day:
My life is not adrift. There is no road map, but there is a horizon that I am moving towards. That horizon is broad, but it is informed by what I believe… The keel to your boat needs to be to your values, your principles, your beliefs and some sense of purpose, but that needs to be aimed at a horizon, not a point of latitude and longitude, because that point may turn out to be irrevelant.
– Randy Komisar