Why True Grit Matters in the Face of Adversity [quote]

Grit is tough because you don’t get the psychic payoffs that come with an exciting discovery or a shift in direction. You rarely get big wins to celebrate. In fact, you may never truly win. You will never have a web page that loads instantaneously or a state with no smokers. All you can do is shave a few seconds off a load time or persuade a few more rural school districts to join your campaign. And that slow, inch-by-inch progress? It’s called winning.

via Why True Grit Matters in the Face of Adversity | Fast Company.

Running the Numbers on a Business [link roundup]

Wohoo! This is the last day of my four-week experiment to blog 5 days a week. I’ll have a recap up sometime next week on how it went. Feels good to be done!

When I was a senior in college, I thought I might try my hand at management consulting – you get to travel around the world and work with smart people to help businesses solve tough challenges, (at least that’s what the brochure said), sounds like a great gig right?

Top tier consulting firms have a particular way of interviewing called The Case Interview which asked you to make estimations and solve hypothetical business problems by talking outloud and running some numbers. Unfortunately I picked a bad time as the Great Recession hit that fall and very few firms were hiring.

So alas, it never came to be. But I always stayed interested in studying businesses by their numbers. So I decided to have this week’s link roundup focus on economic breakdowns various startups and entrepreneurial endeavors.

The Economics of Dropbox:This article does a detailed cost/revenue estimate of Dropbox, a very successful file-syncing/backup service. I think the numbers are a lowball because Paul Graham, who provided seed funding to Dropbox via ycombinator, has said the company is worth way more than $200 million.


Another company that operates on a freemium model is Evernote and their CEO has been surprisingly open with their numbers. They are able to provide the service for free to millions of users with less than 50k paid users (as of Jan 2010). Also see the discussion on Hacker News.


This is a two-part series by the awesome Jonathan Wegener on the economics of working for yourself. Starting your own thing can be pretty scary, so Jonathan recommends you think about doing things that can earn you $100-200 a day (which works out to $36.5k-73k a year working 7 days a week).


A TC Teardown: What Makes Groupon Tick?. As just about everyone knows, Groupon is the fastest growing company in the world. But how much money is it really making? If you’ve ever wondered what goes behind the scenes of *the* daily deals site, check out this comprehensively detailed post on TechCrunch.


The Business of Street Art: This is a post I did a while back that did a back of the envelope calculation on how much money street artists (the ones that use spray cans to make crazy 3-D paintings) could make doing their thing.


Make Time To Read

Jason Shen

I’ve always been a reader.

Growing up, I would read everything I could put my hands on. I read 20 books one summer to win a library contest. I love reading fantasy novels filled with dragons and spells and magicians – to the point where I’d hide books inside whatever reading in English and read during class.

As I got older, I started to enjoy non fiction, particularly business, psychology and personal development. I like that I can get useful, practical and actionable knowledge that I can use to make my work and life more successful.

Earlier this year, I ran into to a VC I knew. He had a friend with him who saw that I was holding a book – The Personal MBA by Josh Kaufman (a book densely packed with wisdom, by the way). This VC’s friend asked to see the book and examined it briefly.

“When I was in business school, one of my professors was an angel investor. Made over 90 major investments and lots of money. He said he never read business books – they were a waste of time.” he said, as he handed the book back to me.

“My recommendation? Don’t read it.”

That guy is a complete moron.

That attitude really pisses me off. It’s one thing to say you don’t have time to read (which I respond – do you have time to eat? to sleep? to exercise? Because reading is on that level). It’s another thing to say it’s actually useless to read.

I once heard someone say that reading a book is like having a conversation with the author. Which means I’ve been able to chat with some really smart dudes: the former/current CEO’s of General Electric, Zappos and Amgen (one of the most successful biotech companies in the world) for instance. Those guys poured hundreds of hours into distilling decades of business knowledge into books that I’ve had a chance to read.

If you’re interested in succeeding in business and that’s not worth 15 bucks and a few hours of you’re time, you’re hallucinating.

Perhaps that professor was able to succeed without reading business books but that does not at all make it a broadly applicable heuristic.

Whatever field you want to succeed in, I guarantee there are books that you ought to read that would give you immense value and a competitive edge. So make the time. It’s so worth it.

I’ll end with a quote from Mark Twain:

“The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who can’t read them.”

I know what kind of man the VC’s friend and his professor falls under – what about you?

How to Make a Great Startup Product Video

If you can’t see the video, click here to read this post on the web.


We have a lot of big news happening today at isocket. Check out our blog for all the announcements including the launch of BuyAds.com, the premium ad marketplace. We’re also covered in VentureBeat, TheNextWeb & Tracking202


(April 2012 Update) isocket has refreshed the video and added one for their marketplace BuyAds.com so I thought I’d include the new videos. They still keep much of the same feeling and style as the original and I think a lot of theses rules still hold true.

isocket

BuyAds

I don’t blog much about my work at isocket here but I think you’ll like today’s post on how me and my coworker Ryan (I really don’t ever stop talking about him do I?) put together this sweeet video with our production team in just four weeks.

Please actually watch the video before reading the rest of the post – it’ll make me feel good and you’ll get more out of it. =)

Startups (and bigger companies like Google and Facebook) have to work hard to explain new products or major refreshes to existing products. While you can do a lot with copy, diagrams and photos, sometimes it’s not enough. Video can be a powerful way to engage, entertain and education your customers and get them pumped to use your product.

First off – let’s get it out there: Getting a great video done is not cheap.

Epipheo Studios, who I consider to be one of the industry leaders (along with Picturelab), charges $15k for 90 seconds of video and it takes them 8-10 weeks to do it. We paid roughly the same amount for a three minute video with a turnaround time of four weeks.

The kick-ass team we worked with is MediaSauce.

They are a Indiana based creative agency and Ryan had actually once worked there selling creative engagements – so he trusted the people and the quality of work they could produce. But neither he nor I had ever handled an engagement like this from start to finish and it was definitely an eye-opener for us.

We are very happy with the final product and have been pleased with the initial response. One customer even emailed us saying how they pumped themselves up by watching the video a couple times before applying join isocket. That kind of feedback is what makes videos so awesome.

So without further ado, I offer some things I learned through our engagement that I hope helps you understand more about the creative process and how to structure an engagement if you ever decide to do a video for your product/startup/company:

Continue reading…

8 Steps to Nailing Your First Tech Conference

So you’re headed to your first (or 2nd, or 3rd) tech conference. Congrats! Conferences are a great place to meet people, learn new things and add a ton of value to your company or the organization you’re representing. But it can also be a little intimidating, overwhelming or just plain confusing.

I’m not here to pretend like I’m a conference expert. I haven’t closed a angel round during an event or signed a dozen customers over a weekend. I’m still working up to that level. But in the past seven months I’ve been to four different tech conferences in four different states and have cut my teeth a bit on the conference circuit:

I’ve been lucky enough to have a great team with me including my CEO John Ramey and my coworker Ryan Hupfer who showed me the ropes and gave me great pointers. I want to share some of the things I’ve learned with other folks want to get the inside scoop.

1) Begin with the end in mind.

What do you want to get out of this conference? More downloads of your app? Buzz about your upcoming launch? Funding? A hire? A cofounder? When you are clear about exactly what you’re looking for, it makes it that much easier to actually find it.

In my mind, the number one reason to go to a conference is to meet interesting people, build new relationships, deepen existing ones and learn about “on the ground” info that you wouldn’t otherwise find elsewhere.

2) Act like a gracious host.

This is a great tip for becoming more social: act like the host. Introduce yourself to people who are standing around – as if it was your party / conference. Be nice to everyone, treat people with respect and try to be of service. It’s ok to spend more time with some people than others, but focus on giving everyone some attention. And don’t be afraid to say hi to anyone – you might just be who they’re looking for.

3) Go old school.

A lot of noise has been made about Bump and Hashable and other networking mobile apps. It’s true that these things are nifty and can facilitate the “let’s stay in touch” aspect of conference networking. But I believe everyone should still have a business card. Make it nice looking and use thick cardstock – I highly recommend moo cards as your provider here. Give people multiple touch points to remember you by – give out business cards. Continue reading…