Has @WalkOffTheEarth just released the Startup Anthem?

The band (AKA musical startup) Walk off the Earth recently released “Rule The World,” and I have to wonder, is this not an awesome Startup Anthem? :)  All kidding aside, startups are not generally the topic of pop music.

Check out the Lyrics, listen for yourself, and let me know what you think.

Lyrics:

Don’t cloud my vision
I’m telling you not today
Cause I’m seeing straight

Made my decision
I made it through the shades of grey
Made it my own way
I materialize the feeling
To carry on to carry on
I know some will say I’m dreaming
But I carry on I carry on

Chorus:

They say no way-o
I say I rule the world
Ain’t afraid of the walls I’mma break them down
They say the same-o
I’m feelin’ high as a bird
Ain’t afraid of the ground I’mma stand up
I say yeah, yeah, yeah, they say no, no, no
They say slow, slow, slow
I say go, go, go
They say no way-o
I say I rule the world
I say I rule the world

I chased illusion
Then I watched it fade to black
Throwing me off track

Found revolution
Found it in a simple fact
I ain’t coming back
I materialize the feeling
To carry on to carry on
I know some will say I’m dreaming
But I carry on I carry on

[Chorus]

I say I rule the world

[Chorus]

I say I rule the world
I say I rule the world
I say I rule the world

Backed @WonderCrewToys, making a difference for boys

Short version: I just backed Wonder Crew Toys, and I invite you to join me.  This is a product that matters from a mom who cares. I think you should too :).

Details:

“Wonder Crew is adventure through friendship! Our Crewmates combine the adventure of an action figure, with the emotional connection of a favorite stuffed animal.”

She is an alum of the Valley Venture Mentors Mentorship Program and in the inaugural cohort of the VVM Accelerator and let me tell you… wow. She is driven by her own experience as a mom. She is informed by her experiences as a psychotherapist. She has interviewed dozens of moms and kids to make sure she understands what they need. She is aided by a community of startups and mentors committed to helping her succeed.

A few short months ago she was a concept on a napkin. Now she had prototypes, relationships with major players in the industry and is ready to touch the lives of boys around the country. Please join me in helping her achieve this awesome mission!

Flavors of Capital Video Series

Access to capital is critical for startups. Below are all of the lecture videos from my course on the flavors of capital.

  1. Flavors of Capital Series
    1. Introduction to the Flavors of Capital

    2. Bootstrapping
    3. Crowdfunding
    4. Friends & Family

    5. Small grants & competitions
    6. Large Grants
    7. Debt

    8. Equity

Customer Archetypes, some rules & samples

We all know that, most of the time when communicating, storytelling is better than dry facts & figures.   And, stories backed up by facts and figures are better still!   Steve Blank‘s Lean Launchpad popularized the idea of using “customer archetypes” to convert dry demographic descriptions of customers into living, breathing people the audience can understand.

Archetypes should follow a few simple rules:

  • Customers are always humans and never entities.  If you think your customer is a company, it is in fact specific human employee(s) who make the purchasing decision.  That means you have to care about what will get that person promoted or fired.
  • Archetypes are 1-person samples (real or fictitious) of the “average” customer.   If your average customer is a 60 year-old Japanese grandmother, make sure your archetype is a 60-year-old Japanese Grandma!
  • Archetypes are narratives, not recitations of demographic/photographic data.
  • Only describe details that are relevant for your venture’s value proposition.  If your solution doesn’t address their need for beer, don’t talk about how they love to drink :).

Example 1:

Boring demographic version:  English-speaking visually impaired people with internet access at home.

Archetype:

Jane Rook is a retired army nurse who was blinded during her service in the Vietnam war.  She lives on a small, fixed income provided by her government disability payments.  She uses her home computer email, Facebook, and Skypes her children, grandchildren, and friends.  When she is able to arrange transportation, she LOVES to play cards (with a brailled deck) with friends from church.  But as she and her friends get older, it is harder and harder to arrange games & transportation.

Example 2

Boring demographic version:  18-24 year-old college students with annual incomes of $20-40,000 per year from middle & upper class families.

Archetype:

Blair Smith is a senior psychology major at UMass with a full course load working to maintain her B average while working 20 hours a week as a waitress, and frantically looking for a “real” job for when she graduates in a few months.  She has what feels like a mountain of student debt to worry about, as well as a dorm room overflowing with four years of acquired junk.  She has no storage space close by and no money to pay for either.

Example 3

Boring demographic version:  25-45 year old married women, with children, with average annual household incomes of >$50,000.

Archetype:

Liu Whan is pregnant with her and her husband Juan’s first child and has realized that their one bedroom apartment isn’t going to cut it.  They would like to find a home in which to raise their family.  Liu is a tenure-track junior professor of psychology at the local woman’s college and Juan is a firefighter.  They have just relocated to the area and have little knowledge of it and no family or friends nearby to lean on for advice.

If you have any archetypes you would enjoy sharing, please post a comment.  Thanks!

Proposal for a new way of voting for legislators/officers

Problem: Normal voting gives each person one vote, regardless of how much passion the person has for the issue.  One can imagine situations where a minority of people REALLY want something and a majority KINDA-SORTA-BARELY does not want the thing.  But with simple majority voting, that information is not captured.  Quadratic Voting is liked by economists because it theoretically addresses this problems and other problems with our normal way of voting.  Systems like these look great on paper but… it turns out that central to their design is people literally buying votes with money…  Buying votes.  Yah.  Not really something most citizens can get behind.  This is a problem for governance, both in government and in corporate governance.

Possible solution: Issue each voter 100 Vote Vouchers, a voucher entitles a voter to cast a vote.  At each election/referendum/motion (I’ll use election from here on out to mean any of these) each voter may cast as many, or as few, votes as they like in favor of their candidate.  At the conclusion of the election two things happen: the candidate with the most votes wins AND all of the vote vouchers are distributed EVENLY to everyone who voted.

Example:

  • Implement this system with the US Senate.
  • Vote comes up for a bill to outlaw immigrants from Mars.
    • 55 senators think competition with Martians would be bad, but not all that likely, so they cast 1 yea vote each for a total of 55 yea votes.
    • 43 senators are pro-immigration, but again feel this isn’t all that likely so they only cast 1 nay vote each for a total of 43 nays.
    • 1 senator (Alice) thinks this is a pretty bad idea and casts 2 nay votes.
    • 1 senator (Bob) thinks this is the height of foolishness and wants to be darn sure this bill does not pass, she casts the maximum 100 votes against the bill, bringing the total number of nays to 145.
    • The final vote is 55 yea, 145 nay, so the bill does not become law.  Note that the majority of senators were in favor of the bill, but the majority of votes were against.
    • A total of 200 votes were cast.  So 200 new vouchers are created and distributed EVENLY to all senators, so every senator gets 20 vouchers.
    • Bob now finds himself with only 20 votes available to spend when other senators have over 100 each.  This puts him at a severe disadvantage in future votes.
  • New situation.  Assume 100 senators with 100 votes each.  A bill comes to the floor, his one to outlaw BitCoin.
    • This bill is contentious.  52 senators spend all the votes they have on yea, meanwhile 47 senators spend all the votes they have on nay.  Meanwhile, the last senator to vote is the crafty Alice.  She watched her colleges argue and determined that her side (yea) is going to win without her vote.  So she decides to not vote.
    • The bill passes with 5,200 yea (52 senators spending 100 yea each) vs 4700 nay (47 senators spending 100 nay each).
    • A total of 9,900 votes were cast.  99 votes are redistributed to each senator.
    • So all the senators OTHER than Alice have 99 votes left to their name, which is pretty much what they had before so they probably aren’t bothered.  However, Alice now has 199 votes, giving her the maximum hitting power of TWO senators.  This gives her a lot of negotiating leverage in future bills that come up.  If she continues to correctly anticipate when her participation will not impact a vote that everyone else is passionate about, she will consistently grow her total vote voucher count while the rest of the senators watch their voucher count drop, further increasing her power.

I want to see a dead seagull on every slide

Years ago I read Seth Godin’s Really Bad Powerpoint, which is short but powerfully helpful.  One suggestion that particularly stood out for me:

Make slides that reinforce your words, not repeat them. Create slides that demonstrate, with emotional proof, that what you’re saying is true not just accurate.

 

Talking about pollution in Houston? Instead of giving me four bullet points of EPA data, why not show them this instead:

Deadbirdmo

Read me the stats but show me a photo of a bunch of dead birds, some smog and even a diseased lung? This is cheating! It’s unfair! It works.

To help my students remember this powerful lesson I tell them “I want to see a ‘dead seagull’ on every slide.”  They don’t forget.  They reduce number of words, replace with images that powerfully communicate the emotion behind their speech…

Read the whole thing: Seth Godin’s Really Bad Powerpoint.

Donuts vs Fruit: asking for actions, not intentions, during customer development

Donuts    vs    fruit plate

A woman from a pastry startup walks into an office full of potential customers to conduct customer development interviews.  She asks everyone “You told me you often need snacks in the middle of the day.  What would be better, if I brought a plate of donuts or a plate of fruit?” Most people tell her they would prefer fruit because it is healthier.  On her way out she leaves a plate of each behind as a thank-you gift.  She comes back the next day and discovers there are no donuts left, but lots of rotting fruit! What did she learn?

A novice would think they learned that customers lie so there is no point in asking them.  A pro realizes the importance of how you ask the question.  It is very hard for people to know what they might/would do with any accuracy.  If instead you ask what people have done, or give them a situation to make a real choice, then you get much more usable information.

Note that you have two ways to apply this great lesson:

  1. Before you have a prototype you can ask people what they have done in similar situations in the past.
  2. Once you have a Minimum Viable Product (MVP), give people a choice between your option and the alternative.

Take away:

When conducting customer development interviews ask what people have done, not what they would/might do.

Hat Tip to the man who taught me this concept and the entertaining way to remember it: the great Eddie Binder.