I’ve been meaning to write on Medium for a while. Medium is a new platform for publishing blog posts.
A plug and play world
I received my new Macbook air this morning with much excitement. After my new weekly catchup with Holly from Pixc on Google Hangout and some lunch, I unboxed my new Macbook Air and turned it on.
I connected to our wifi, opened up Safari the default browser. Installed Lastpass which stores my logins and passwords. Immediately I was able to login to Gmail and Facebook. When I wanted access to our files and documents, I logged into dropbox and google drive to access them.
I’ve decided to create a email newsletter so that I can discuss startups, entrepreneurship, tech and life as an extension to this blog. I added the newsletter signup button a few months ago and started gathering email addresses. I have 16 people so far on my mailing list. It was probably about time that I sent out my first newsletter!
I’ve copy & pasted this month’s newsletter in its entirety. If you think it will be useful for you, please subscribe using the orange button which says “newsletter” on the left hand side of the blog.
Thanks for subscribing to my personal newsletter via my blog. This is my first newsletter so its a startup as well! I’m going to write about my thoughts on startups, entrepreneurship, technology and life. Please let me know if you find this useful, information, or if its not good at all. I’m open to feedback. If you do one thing today, just hit reply and let me know. Its that simple.
Recently, I’ve realised that you have to be pro-active when it comes to opportunities. Good things do NOT come to those who wait, particularly in the startup world. You have to grab life with both hands and go for it.
To give you an example, there was a startup event called Sydney Walkabout Tour which my friend Zach Kitschke was organising. The tour involved visiting various startup office spaces and co-working spaces around Sydney. I was working out of Fishburners and sitting near my good friend Brett Fox, who was scheduled to speak on a panel about Startups. He said to the organiser that he could no longer do the panel discussion. So I turned around and said out aloud, I’d be happy to fill in and do it. The organiser looked at me and agreed on the spot as they needed someone at the last minute!
Fishburners panel discussion
That’s how I ended up on this expert discussion panel about Startups:
I got to share my knowledge with the audience of 40 people about life in a startup. The same thing happened a week later, when I was attending the Sydney SEO meetup. I was attending for the first time. About an hour from the event start time, there was a message from the organiser saying that one of the presenters had dropped out. So I volunteered to present on “App Store Optimisation” and posted a link on Meetup to my slideshare presentation. It was a presentation I had done at Product camp 6 months earlier.
I then received a call from the organiser and BOOM! I was presenting at my first SEO meetup in a room full of SEO professionals. I had an awesome time, and its one of the most engaged and savvy audiences I’ve presented to.
By presenting and sharing my knowledge, I’ve been able to position myself as an expert in the mobile / startups space. I’ll also be presenting again on 5 December on “Growth Hacking & SEO”. You can find the meetup here.
Similar opportunities have come up with teaching at General Assembly when they needed an instructor for their growth hacking course. I grabbed that opportunity because I got to further learn & research about the area and to also teach others about it.
Presenting at Sydney SEO Meetup
I’m now teaching a second course at General Assembly on “Making Effective Prototypes“. I’m going to show how I create prototypes, why we prototype and some of the tools that I use. This was an idea that I pitched to General Assembly. The course is $70 for 3 hours. As a blog follower, you can use my promo code GA_fam for 20% off to get the course for $56. (Tip: the newsletter subscribers got higher discounts, so sign up using the orange button on the left hand side of the blog for exclusive deals.) You can enrol for the course here.
Thanks for reading to the end of this newsletter. If you want to be successful in life, I believe you need to grab these opportunities that present themselves. You need to be ready, willing, able and prepared. I’ve decided to be open about the experience and knowledge that I have, to present and to teach and to help others. I believe it will come back to you. We need to be doing more of it in the startup industry. I have a YouTube Channel with regular episodes of videos of myself speaking and interviews with other entrepreneurs. I believe that there is much that we can share with others that can be captured via courses, articles, videos and newsletters.
p.s. Just hit reply and let me know what you think of my newsletter.
I had a fun and informative interview with one of the cool guys behind Skritter and Code Combat, George Saines. I gleaned from our 30-minute chat on Google Hangout that we have learned and experienced almost the same things marketing and distributing our educational tools.
I’ve broken down the interview into 6 x 5 minute chunks. Here is Part 1 of the interview (5mins)
I want to share some lessons I jotted down from that interview:
1. Start ups are hard. It is quite challenging – the business aspects, design, marketing, distribution, customer service, and finding product/market fit. Problems will happen; crises will occur. If you have the problem to a solution, and you strongly believe in it, you have to exhaust all means to MAKE IT WORK. I’ve experienced this with Native Tongue, and I’m one of the living testimonies that while some say 9 out of 10 start ups fail, success can still happen.
2. If you think you have the right market in mind, you may need to think again. George and his team first thought that Skritter would click with institutions. They soon found out that schools usually didn’t have budget for a supplementary educational tool. Instead, they discovered that their market is completely different from the ones they initially targeted. We found the same with Native Tongue as well. We thought it would be kids, but it ended up being adults 25 – 45 years old.
3. Customer service is a key to success. Excellent customer relations, that is. I call this “wow the customer” experience – going over and above on customer enquiries. We discuss in our video about getting customer enquiries down to 1 hour response time as “wow” experience. Skritter would end up re-allocating their marketing budget to customer service.
4. Give more. George gave Skritter at an almost-free price to schools – yes, huge discounts for the institutions. They believe that they should contribute more and give access to students who need the tool. In one case, a teacher took 4 years to adopt Skritter into their school. In short, Skritter has been doing very well now since George, Nick Winter, and Scott Erickson started it in 2008.
5. Learning should be fun. This mantra is taken into a serious and creative level by the Skritter team. Making it a game-like educational tool works.
Watch the second parts of my interview with George Saines below. And oh, stay tuned for more parts of this blog and video!
November’s Aussie Startup News Roundup for Tech in Asia is out!
I am happy to present in this roundup that the startup scene in Australia is growing well and taking off. You will find that my peers are raising funds, providing jobs and winning pitching competitions. Plus, we may be busy doing some growing, but we don’t forget to party!
This is our growth hacking November newsletter which we have copied in full below. Its our second newsletter! If you like it, please subscribe to my growth hacking email newsletter in the form below.
Growth Hacking November Newsletter
Growth hacking is a mentality rather than a toolset. Of course I have my favourite tools that I use, but I prefer to think of it as state of mind. Its the fusion of product + distribution.
There was a very revealing article this week in The Verge on the impending failure of Everpix, a photo startup. They had the best product, best algorithms, best team and the best investors. Heck, the founders had previously invented software which got bought by Apple! This software would become a key part of OSX and iTunes. The Everpix had raised $1.8m in venture capital funding and decided to focus solely on the product. They had stellar numbers but ignored GROWTH. Renowned growth hacker Andrew Chen had a great post-mortem analysis on why they failed.
Also, I would like to invite you to a new course that may be of interest, Making Effective Prototypes, on 27 November, 6-9 PM at General Assembly. This is most suited for entrepreneurs and non-technical people to get acquainted with, and fully benefit from, prototyping and wireframing.
One of the biggest problems we faced at Native Tongue as a startup was design. We didn’t have any in-house designers. We had some freelance designers through connections and from recruiting on Deviant Art that designed our language game apps.
Everyone will tell you that the ideal team is hacker + hustler + hipster. The hipster is the designer. For many startups, particularly where there are two technical founders, usually one of the missing elements is design. We got by as we had freelancers we could use but it did slow us down by not having a designer. When we started the consulting business and started to get more projects coming in, we needed more design resources. We hired a designer, but we also did another critical thing – we started using 99designs. We had already used 99designs for crowdsourcing our logo and website, so we were familiar with using it. In addition, my business partner had used it numerous times in the past.
We decided to use a combination of our designers plus 99designs platform to get more designs concepts and help us move faster. On 99designs, I have access to thousands of designers. When I put out a brief I can have anywhere between 30 – 50 designers that contribute to the design brief. We combine this with our design thinking and capabilities, UX, development and we achieve great results.
In short, we have hacked the design process
I wrote an article about this for Tech In Asia on how startups can boost their productivity by using crowdsourced design. This article was also syndicated on Yahoo Philippines and Yahoo Singapore. You can also watch my Youtube video where I describe it in more detail. I filmed it while on holiday so I hope you enjoy the change of scenery in the background!
As you can see, the hacking mindset can be applied to other parts of your business – not just distribution. Its about doing things in non-conventional ways to get it done faster and more effectively. We have a lot of experience using 99designs and we often manage briefs for our clients for mobile app design. If you are interested, please drop me a line and I can show you some of the designs we have done.
New Prototyping Course
Much like growth hacking, I believe that prototyping is also a mindset. There are lots of tools out there – but knowing how to use them is what makes you effective. You can use any tool if you understand how to prototype and know what you are doing.
I’m teaching a new course at General Assembly where I cover prototyping, wireframing, user stories. It will also be hands-on as I will demonstrate some of my favourite tools that I use. I’d love for you to come along and to share it with anyone that you think might be interested. Its for 3 hours and its normally $70 AUD. Use the discount code GA_fam for a 20% discount to get the course for $56. You can enrol here. If you any questions about the course, just hit reply.
p.s. I’ll be online for the next few hours to answer your questions. Just reply below!
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I just heard the pitch for btc.sx, a bitcoin derivative trading platform. You can bet long and short on bitcoins, and do margin trading. The platform is a market maker for trades. Customers hedge their positions, and it goes out to market and another bitcoin trader takes the position. This is a great idea given the volatility in bitcoins and the increasing popularity of bitcoins. Hey there’s now a bitcoin ATM!
Btc.sx has been around for 6 months and have done $6.5m in trading volume to date, with $150k revenue run rate. They’re currently raising $500k seed round (IMHO not enough!). Its also a fishburners startup. Its an understated pitch but probably the best pitch I’ve seen in a long time in terms of traction and opportunity. This has to be one of the hottest startups in Australia right now which no one knows about. And the guy sits across from me at the community desk at Fishburners. Crazy!
Its a really interesting investment at that valuation. Snapchat has 350million pics submitted daily. Up from 200mil pics a few months ago, and 150mil pics a few months before that. They clearly have traction, growth in # of photos submitted, stickiness and currently no revenue model.
1. Are they changing people’s behaviour and becoming a part of their daily lives?
2. Will the # of photos and # of users keep growing at an increasing rate?
3. Will it become a verb – after you take a pic will people say “snapchat” it?
4. How sticky is the product?
5. Is this a behaviour that you can see 100million people doing?
The volume of photos is already 2-3X that of instagram in the past quarter and this was a stat from a few months ago. See the presentation below from Mary Meeker on the State of The Internet 2013.
It could be like Line or WeChat and sell in-app-purchases for emoticons, visual effects you can add to the pics. When are you are at that size with that kind of user behaviour, there are ways to make money.
Personally I don’t use it and I don’t like the product design, but I’m not in the target demographic. I regularly ask the teenagers at my church what apps they are using, and Snapchat and Subway Surfer are top of the list. I see them laughing when they talk about snapchat and how they use it to send funny pics and selfies. Snapchat is onto something for this market. I’m not in the selfie picture market.
Snapchat photos surpass Instagram
Snapchat’s explosive growth
Its very different to other products out there because its a private one to one conversation, not a one-to-many social network like twitter, facebook, instagram, or pinterest. Also, is it a social network if its one-to-one? The best description I’ve heard is that its a visual walkie talkie.
The advertising model is also potentially different. It could introduce a new type of advertising unit that fit within the context of the product. Perhaps an an ephemeral advertising unit that could be used for flash sales, temporary offers, instant rewards, and time sensitive downloads. Some brands are starting to use it already too.
Oh and if you have read this far – add me to snapchat! My username is “inspiredworlds”
I love the confidence of Javier Mendez, Cain Velasquez’s MMA Coach on the upcoming JDS vs Cain fight:
“I see the fight playing out more or less like that last one; different type of scenario but same type of thing. The pressure is on and Junior is doing his best to try and finish Cain. That’s the only way Junior can win is to try to finish him. He’s not going to win a decision; he’s not going to win a round.“
Wow, killer quote! I’ve highlighted the part in bold that I really like. Boxing and MMA are those sports where you need supreme confidence in yourself. Its a one on one battle. Its as much about mental strength as physical strength. Anderson Silva used to defeat opponents before they even stepped into the ring. Same with the great Ali as well.
Cain & JDS throwdown
I heard about one basketball game where Michael Jordan started counting down from the number 40 every time he scored. He’d score one basket and say “38″ to his opponent. Scored again and said “36″, “34″ and continued. Then his opponents figured it out. It showed the level of confidence he had in himself. Even though his opponents knew what he wanted to do, there was nothing you could do to stop him. He ended up with 42 points that night.
If you read this blog, you’ll probably know that I’m a huge Chicago Bulls fan. I saw this quote today from the Pacers vs Bulls preseason game and a quote from Tom Thibodeau really struck a chord with me:
“We have the capability to be an excellent rebounding team, but we need everybody to rebound. You have to hit, you have to fight, you have to pursue, and that takes work and multiple effort and it takes heart. And when you play this game you have to play with an edge.”
A lot of these quotes remind me of startups, but also of life. If you want to do anything well and be successful, you have to fight for it. You have to pursue it. The times you see success, its only 1% of the time. People don’t realise the other 99% of the time was spent struggling, training, and working your butt off when no one was watching. Very few startups hit it out of the park immediately. Just like no boxer is punching out people on the way to the top and not putting in work. I was talking to some people at my church yesterday, and they were saying that the top high school swim squads will wake up at 5am daily, and train 7 times a week.
Even though boxing is a puglistic sport, I remember watching an interview with Mike Tyson. The interviewer said “you had a powerful punch, you could knock people out with one punch”. But Mike corrected him and said “In my younger days, I was trying to knock everyone out. But its not the strongest fighter that wins. Its the smartest fighter.“.
Mike Tyson – more than punching power!
Even if you watch his earliest fights, Mike was a very technical fighter. It wasn’t just about power and strength. The combination of hand speed, power, footwork, movement, technique and aggression was unmatched. It requires talent but also training, hard work and smarts. Obviously, the smart thinking and training went out the window when he took that bite.
Btw I’m rooting for Cain to win! I saw him fight at my first live UFC event in Sydney, Australia. It only lasted one minute but I still saw the current Heavyweight Champion fight and win