Tag Archives: Airbnb

To Ensure Guest Safety, Airbnb Is Giving Away Safety Cards, First Aid Kits, And Smoke & CO Detectors


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Over the years, peer-to-peer lodging marketplace Airbnb has been working to increase trust and safety for guests that stay in listings on its platform. That includes verifying the identities of its users, and providing insurance for hosts who make their properties available. Today, it’s taking that a step further, with an initiative that will make emergency safety cards, first aid kits, and smoke and carbon monoxide detectors available to hosts.

In a blog post today, Trust and Safety head Phil Cardenas announced the new initiative aimed at making Airbnb listings more safe for its guests. The initiative starts with the company providing emergency safety cards and first aid kits to its hosts.

The emergency safety cards will be distributed to all eligible hosts in the U.S. who request one, and will include all the information a guest needs in the case of an emergency. That includes a listing of local emergency services, as well as trusted friends of the hosts who may be able to help in the event of an emergency.

Airbnb is also offering up first aid kits, to ensure that guests have the tools that they need in the case of an accident during one of their stays. It’s giving away 10,000 of the kits on a first come, first served basis to hosts in the U.S. who request them.

Finally, the company is trying to ensure that guests are safe and aware of fires or possible carbon monoxide poisoning. According to reports, about 60 percent of all North American homes don’t have carbon monoxide detectors, and smoke detectors aren’t always functioning.

To combat those issues, Airbnb will require all hosts to confirm that they have the devices installed in their homes. And for those who don’t already have smoke or CO detectors, Airbnb will be giving them away to eligible hosts in the U.S., and hopes to expand the program elsewhere in the world. (Hosts looking to learn more can go to airbnb.com/home-safety.)

For Airbnb, the giveaways are one way to improve guest stays and to show that its listings are held to a certain minimum safety standard. By doing so, it hopes to win over more users, and hopefully get on the good side of local regulators in the U.S.

Photo Credit: David Reber’s Hammer Photography via Compfight cc

http://techcrunch.com/2014/02/21/airbnb-safety-giveaway/

Happy New Year!


Imagine if you could see the world like Van Gogh

Find a tiny home to write that great masterpiece

Hemingway stayed in boardinghouses, as did many writers.

Or go on tour, staying in homes along the way

Louis Armstrong stayed in homes when he traveled.

Imagine for a day you could live like a king

or be an explorer

or even a kid

Imagine when you arrived, you were made to feel special

Being welcomed in Barcelona.

In a home that is smart

Many Airbnb listings are quite advanced with Nest thermostats, iPads for guests, etc.

and designed to be shared

Dinner party at the Airbnb of one of our top hosts in Brooklyn, Shell.

Where home isn’t just a house

You see, home is anywhere you belong

Host welcoming guest during Hurricane Sandy.

You now have the keys to this new open world

House of Nalin, top host in India.

A world of wonder

Mushroom Dome Cabin.

filled with unexpected surprises

and delicious delights

Eating at Jiro’s sons restaurant in Tokyo while staying on Airbnb.

A world you never even knew existed

Vayable street art tour in San Francisco.

A world with communities of people just like you

Where behind every door is a host

Kimberly, a host in the East Village in NY.

who treats you like family

This is was the first host I ever stayed with in Denver for the 2008 Democratic National Convention.

We are a new kind of economy not powered by machines

Not mass-produced dystopias

Not an artificial home

We are powered by people, a world of entrepreneurs

Host Jonathan can now pursue his dream of ceramics.

Who are building a new economy around sharing

Shell serving her guests.

Where cities become villages

One of oldest homes in country I stayed in Philadelphia.

With a friend in every city

Penpals with host Nalin in India.

But as wild as this seems, it’s not a new idea

Nearly half of Americans in the 19th century stayed in boardinghouses.

The romance of travel is back

and it’s here to stay

Wedding at the Mushroom Dome Cabin.

What started with 3 airbeds

Original apartment where Joe and I still live to this day.

is now in 190 countries

and one day in the remaining 4

We are currently not in Cuba, Syria, North Korea, or Iran.

We celebrate the different

and see potential in everything

We think a moonshot is actually booking the moon

We believe in supporting local economies

and being a model to cities

Joe Gebbia with the Mayor of Seoul.

We believe in diplomacy at the street level

Jorge was a border guard in West Germany whose host, Kay, was a border guard in East Germany — same location, same shift.

and honoring those who challenge the status quo

Host Mishelle in Brooklyn, who started a petition to change the NY law.

We are dedicated to sharing with those in need

Hosts who opened their homes during Hurricane Sandy.

We believe the measure of life will be in its meaningful moments

Mom enjoying our Airbnb in Bali with our host, Jeff.

Tonight 252,472 people will have these moments

Us enjoying a New Year’s Eve Bali restaurant.

Happy New Year!

Found this photo on Instagram, from Jared Barnard’s wife.

Written by

Co-founder, CEO of Airbnb

Published December 31, 2013

 

There is No Such Thing as a “Lost Year for Tech”


Some thoughts, a couple of megatrends and eight startups to watch in 2014

You may have read Quartz’ interestingly entertaining post 2013 was a lost year for tech.” With a headline that can make both BuzzFeed and Upworthy jealous — and arguments that most people in the developed world would probably not disagree with — Quartz got the kind of attention it hoped for.

Attention is one thing; being sensational is another.

Om Malik wrote a great rebuttal to the Qz article, and did a fantastic job of explaining the nature of innovation and disruption:

Innovation happens in different places, in different sectors and follows a different time scale that only a handful really comprehend.”

John Gruber also wrote his thoughts, including the fact that smartphones becoming a commodity is a sign of “remarkable progress.”

Plenty of other smart and knowledgeable people weighed in by echoing rebuttals, distinguishing valid points from exaggerations, and more.

There Are No Dud Years in Technology

2013 may not have been “exciting” from the perspective of a journalist (even if his bio states he “believes that the most interesting things about the universe have yet to be discovered, and that technology is the primary driver of cultural change”), but calling any year a “lost year for tech” is nonsense.

Big Brand Tech’s press-worthy contributions during the year may deserve a debate, one which I’m glad Quartz stirred up, but we are talking about the tech industry here, Christopher Mims; the tech industry.

Today’s successful tech giants — from Google and Facebook to Apple and Samsung — all started their empires by building infrastructures that led to widely accepted consumer products that turned into massive platforms.

Mims seems to have gotten it all wrong…

  • Connected wearable devices are in their beta / Gen 1 phase (think of the Rio MP3 players, not the iPod), but they are indeed launching as consumer products, and they are popping up everywhere.
  • Software companies are acquiring hardware companies, not just the other way around.
  • Snowden showed the world how much (and how little) we value privacy, and that awareness is better than being in the dark.
  • Companies like Uber, Lyft and AirBnb are disrupting entire industries, despite the many barriers they face. And these startups are not alone (scroll to the bottom of this post for a few examples you may or may not recognize).
  • Google Glass is not yet what it promises to be, but self-driving cars aren’t either. You can’t just launch something like this overnight Mr. Mims. Also, scroll to the bottom to learn about META, a company that is going beyong notification glasses like Google Glass.
  • Social media has become nearly ubiquitous (something that was laughable seven years ago), and messaging companies have captured (or re-captured) the world’s interest faster than social networks did.
  • The world’s largest tech giants—the same I mentioned earlier—now face threats from small startups from every corner of the Earth (and that’s exactly why they are turning them into an opportunity by acquiring them while they can).
  • Silicon Valley may not have had its finest moments, but technological innovation is now happening in pockets in dozens of cities—from Ra’anana, Berlin and Santiago to Montreal, Austin and New York City.
  • Yes, drones are getting hyped up thanks to clever marketing campaigns—but guess what, such campaigns worked.
  • Oh, and yes, one in every five people on Earth own a smartphone.

Is this boring and embarrassing?

Perhaps if you are a tech writer.

Perhaps if you are an early adopter who can’t get his consumer tech updates quickly enough.

Perhaps if you are uninterested in the tech infrastructure that is being built all around us.

Every single day, those of us with connected devices walk around nearly oblivious to the fact that we are nodes in a transparent network that is connecting us to each other and to the things around us. The technological advancements of 2013 may not have fancied a few tech writers (who somehow make their living writing about tech), but such advancements are building the future that our children and our children’s children will live in. Again, this is the tech industry. I am almost certain that the writers at Horse & Rider are more passionate about 2013′s contributions than Mr. Mims, but alas, this is not about passion—this is about reality.

2013: Not a dud, I say.

Tech is becoming so seamless that we are forgetting it’s actually there!

That gets me excited. Is also scares the crap out of me, and it should scare the crap out of you too.

It’s up to us — consumers / users / breathing, feeling, thinking human beings — to vote for our future with our daily clicks, swipes and online purchases. Whether we realize it or not — entire layers of data are being mapped all around us, and brilliant minds creating the software and hardware that will power us into a brave new world—for better, or worse.

That brave new world is being shaped day in and day out, whether we know it or not. So much for a “lost year in tech.” Pfff.

If anything, perhaps tech journalists are becoming too dependent on “headline storytelling,” a term I’d like to coin (is that allowed?) for the idea of the media writing exactly what the “hot” startups want them to write about.

Not sure what I mean with “headline storytelling?” Just take a look at TechCrunch’s posts about Snapchat. They run like clockwork.

But I digress.

I believe there are two megatrends that progressed greatly in 2013, and these are only two very obvious ones amidst a sea of small and big wins for tech throughout the year. These are the result of the collision of great advancements in software and hardware, as well as collective work of large R&D budgets, brilliantly committed startups and a tech ecosystem that is one again looking forward to solving problems worth solving.

2013 did not bring about a new Internet, but it certainly contributed key building blocks for the next phase of the Internet era. We should pay attention to these trends and some of the startups tackling them — whether for intellectual, philosophical, sociological or plain business curiosity.

1. All Things Context

The Internet of Things has been talked about for years. It is the subject of plenty of books, commercials and startup pitches. Sci-Fi movies have been talking about this for decades and “Her” is only one of the latest attempts to imagine a world where humans and robots coexist. (Again, I find this exciting, and scary).

We find early signs of contextually connected devices everywhere, from the mall to the jogging lane. Sensors are now everywhere and the reality of human beings interacting with a world around them—that is as physical as it is digital—is becoming a reality.

Here are a few context-related startups that mattered in 2013:

Estimote:

“Real world context for your apps.”
http://estimote.com/

Nest:

“We take the unloved products in your home and make simple, beautiful, thoughtful things.”
https://nest.com/

Pebble

“Your custom, on-wrist HQ.”
https://getpebble.com/

Oculus VR

“A next-generation virtual reality headset designed for immersive gaming.”
http://www.oculusvr.com/

Meta

“See the future, first.”
https://www.spaceglasses.com/

MetaPro: 15 times the screen of Google Glass
http://youtu.be/LuMv29nKo2k

2. All Things Crowd

The convergence of all things crowd (from crowdfunding and crowdsourcing, to the “sharing economy” and the “collaborative economy”), had quite a 2013. Marketplace Communities like AirBnb, Kickstarter, Maker’s Row, Tradesy, Quirky, Artsicle, KitchenSurfing, Fiverr, DogVacay, TaskRabbit, Udacity, SkillShare and Square are but a few examples of how consumer behavior is changing. Larger brands—including TOMS, Ikea and GE—have started initiatives, products and services to tackle this shift in consumer expectations.

Some will say this trend is only gaining momentum in large urban settings, and that may be true to an extent. Regardless of their individual impact, we are seeing a collective shift in the kinds of startups that are getting created, funded and launched.

In fact, the progress enabled by platforms like AngelList and GitHub are sufficient enough to say that 2013 was a source of more transparent and distributed innovation.

Here are a few crowd-related startups to watch in 2014:

Quirky
Shop for the world’s best products, invented by real people just like you.”
http://www.quirky.com/

GetAround
“Peer-to-peer car sharing and local car rental.”

http://www.getaround.com/

CoinBase
An international digital wallet that allows you to securely buy, use, and accept bitcoin currency.”
https://coinbase.com/

Near-Me
Get in the Business of Sharing.”
http://near-me.com/

Shapeways
Make, buy, and sell products with 3D Printing.”
http://www.shapeways.com/

Shapeways 3D Printing & the Culture of Creativity
http://youtu.be/qJuTM0Y7U1k

ps. If you’re interested in joining a private community about “All Things Crowd,” please add a comment with your email or write me at socialnerdia(at)gmail(dot)com.


Note: This article was originally posted at Social Nerdia.

Written by

Strategy Director: Sprinklr. Author: SOCIAL STATE. Founder: Social Nerdia Consulting. Ex Social Media Manager: Samsung — @socialnerdia  — www.socialnerdia.com

 

The Hardest Thing I’ve Ever Done: How I Changed My Name to Saul of Hearts


Most of you can probably guess that Saul of Hearts isn’t the name I was born with. I’m not going to tell you what that name is, but I’m sure you can figure it out, either by asking someone who knows or Googling it.

It’s not that there’s anything wrong with my birth name — it just wasn’t for me.

It’s the name that I wrote on the top of my reports when I was a straight-A student. It’s the name that my teachers called out during roll call, at school plays, at science fairs.

It’s a name that other people gave me. And I’ve never been OK with letting people define me from the outside.

I knew from early on that someday I would change it. But still, it was an uphill battle against conventional thinking, societal expectations, and 20 years of momentum.

The biggest obstacles came from those whom I thought would support me the most — my close friends and confidantes, who thought they knew the real me.

The more I fought to assert my identity — my right to define myself as I saw fit — the more important it became to me, even more than the name itself.

It was scary, frustrating, and deeply rewarding, all at once.

I learned how a name — that most personal of things — can hold so much meaning for so many different people.

What I thought would be a simple process took years.

And yet, even if the name I had chosen meant nothing to me, the process of changing it taught me everything.

It challenged people to look at me differently and rethink their assumptions about who I was.

I could finally start the process of defining myself, word by word.

****

The first time I went by the name Saul was around my junior year of college. Everyone already knew me by my birth name, so I wasn’t trying to “change” it yet.

It was a pen name, an alter-ego — the first four letters of my last name, in fact, so it wasn’t too much of a stretch.

I had a few friends who went by other names — who’d had one nickname in college, and another in high school, or who took on a stage name when they performed with their band. It didn’t seem like that big of a deal to me.

After college, I started hanging out with even more unconventional people.

I went to Burning Man, where everyone had a “playa name.” If someone introduced themselves as Fuckwad Sparklepony, then by God, you would call them Fuckwad Sparklepony.

You would never ask someone their real name. What was a real name, after all? Why was your playa name less real than your name in the default world?

It was exciting to meet someone who went by “Lucifer,” or “Lt. Disaster.” It would be a letdown to find out their name was really Dr. Jacob Smith.

After a few years of going to Burning Man, and traveling the country, and hanging out with hippies and couchsurfers and anarchists, I ended up with two groups of friends: those who knew me as Saul, and those friends from college who still called me by my birth name.

Eventually, those two worlds were going to clash.

****

A few years after college, I decided to go all in.

I looked down the list of possible surnames I’d come up with over the years. None of them worked.

Finally, in a burst of inspiration, I settled on “Of-Hearts”. It was so absurd, so obviously not my birth name, that it just might work.

I changed my Facebook name, my online dating profiles, my resume. This was it.

And then I hit the wall of resistance. My friends just didn’t get it.

I’d ask my friends to call me by my new name at parties and game nights, and they’d just shrug and forget. I’d send out e-mails signed “Saul,” and they’d come back, “Hey _______.”

Scott and Jenny, who had been to Burning Man with me, and knew other people who called me Saul, were more understanding than others.

They’d often slip and use my birth name, but would quickly correct themselves. It meant a lot to me to know that they were trying.

But my friend Drake took it personally. He seemed to think that because he’d known me so long, he knew the “real” me.

That changing my name was a personal affront to him — that it infringed upon his right to call me as he saw fit.

Or, worst of all, that I was trying to be something that I’m not.

Occasionally, we’d host guests from Airbnb at our house, with whom I was the contact person. They knew me from our conversations as “Saul,” and they would show up asking for me.

But when I introduced myself, Drake would step in, rolling his eyes: “That’s not Saul,” he said, “that’s ________.”

And I had to explain the whole story. A story that, frankly, I didn’t want to explain. I didn’t think it was my responsibility to explain away a name I’d never chosen in the first place.

I became afraid of bringing new friends over to the house. If I went on a date with a girl from OKCupid, I would hesitate to bring her home.

I didn’t want her to think that I was lying to her. I didn’t want her to think I had something to hide. She could Google “Saul of Hearts” and find my life poured out on blogs and social networking profiles. I was as transparent as could be.

I just didn’t want to make love to her as ________. It wasn’t me any more.

So Drake and I began to fight. We had long conversations about it. He didn’t think it was his responsibility to “remember” what to call me. He thought I was trying to run from my old identity.

I just wanted him to accept my new identity, to give me the space and freedom to be myself.

Eventually, I fell in with a new group of friends, a bunch of artists and Burners who lived in an intentional community called Synchronicity.

I went over for dinner one evening and introduced myself as Saul of Hearts, waiting for the inevitable skepticism. What’s your real name? someone was bound to say.

It never came. Weeks passed, and no one asked.

I had never been so grateful.

Over the next few months, the pressure eased. Suddenly, I didn’t have to be on edge anymore, waiting for one word from Drake to start the inevitable landslide back to my birth name.

Now, if he called me ________, he would be the one in the minority. He would be the one that people would look at funny: “Who are you calling _______? Do you mean Saul?”

Occasionally, as my groups of friends mingled, my name did too. Some friends learned my birth name as others adapted to my new identity.

It didn’t feel quite as wrong to hear my old name any more. It became more and more rare for anyone to call me by it.

I still use it on my legal documents, and on my driver’s license. I might change it someday.

But it was no longer quite so threatening. It no longer had any power over me. It made for a funny anecdote when my new roommates sorted through the mail.

Maybe a time will come when this name too wears out, and I’ll have to change it all over again.

But it doesn’t matter. The transition has already happened. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, and if I had to, I’d do it again.

Written by

Think you can only have one job? One home? One love? Unlock your poly-potential | Lateral Freelancing since 2013. www.saulofhearts.com @saulofhearts

 

Airbnb and the Benefits of Cannibalization


December 20, 2013

When you’ve been in the travel business as long as I have (29 years and counting), it’s common to hear that “[insert trend name here] will destroy our business.” But I’ve found that disrupters in general actually have a salutary effect on my business because they force me to work smarter, and usually help my company grow. To wit:

Commission Caps — travel companies used to earn 10 percent commission on every ticket sold until the airlines stopped paying base commissions in 1999. With a huge dip in our income, we restructured our business model and began to charge our clients fees to make up the difference. Our business grew.

Videoconferencing — when videoconferencing first hit the marketplace, we were told that this new capability would cannibalize our business. Why, people argued, would people travel for meetings when they could so easily video chat and save their company money? But, rather than eliminating the need for face-to-face meetings and communications, video chatting actually did the opposite. Instead, video chatting proved the need for in-person meeting followup. The travel industry remained unaffected.

The Internet — we were told the Internet was going to eliminate the need for travel agents. When I meet people for the first time and tell them what I do, they always express surprise that an “offline” travel business could be growing at a rate that rivals that of many online travel agencies. In fact, the Internet has been great for our business. Now, our company’s travelers can access their dedicated travel consultants by phone or e-mail as well as make their own reservations online. Not only were we not eliminated from the marketplace because of the Internet, but its induction has actually enhanced our profile, made us more accessible and helped us be better at what we do.

And now, the latest “death knell” for our industry has reared its head: The Sharing Economy, and in particular, Airbnb. For those unfamiliar with this latest disintermediator, let me share a personal example of how Airbnb works and why it’s here to stay, despite the attempts of some governmental authorities to close them down. Recently my 23-year old-daughter and her girlfriends were heading to Art Basel in Miami. They searched for a hotel room, but found that the rooms in their preferred hotels (in this case the W and the Fontainebleau) were out of their price range. Opting for a Plan B, they visited the Airbnb website and ended up staying in a vacant two-bedroom condo that someone was renting out through the site. For a fraction of the cost they would have paid to stay in a hotel, they spent their time in a condo with ocean views that was close to the festival and enjoyed a vacation they might not have been able to afford otherwise.

It might seem anathema that a CEO of a large travel company would support Airbnb. But, I think that Airbnb is doing a great thing for the travel industry. Airbnb encourages people who may previously have been unable to, to leave their homes, hit the road, soar the skies, and sightsee.

New York state and the lodging industry have maintained a mutually beneficial relationship for many years, the cornerstone of which is the philosophy: “You scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours.” New York state benefits from its nearly 100,000 hotel rooms and those hotel properties benefit from New York. Currently hotel properties in the state charge a 15 percent room tax, meaning a traveler staying in a $300/night room at a hotel, ends up paying $345 a night at the end of the day.

Whereas a traveler to New York without a place to stay once had no other option for lodging than to get a hotel room, now a traveler to New York has the additional lodging option of staying in someone’s apartment or house because of companies like Airbnb. Rather than searching for hotel rooms with king-size beds and indoor pools, travelers are combing through listings of apartments, completely furnished, with empty rooms to rent for a night or two. A marketplace that had previously been considered private is now open to the public and is leveling the playing field. So, the game is changing; but does that mean the rules have to as well? Quite simply: yes. If you want to play the game, you have to learn the rules and then play by them.

Currently Airbnb travelers pay no taxes for their accommodations through the site. Airbnb needs to not only pay taxes but abide by reasonable regulations if they want to play fairly. If other lodging businesses have to pay taxes to remain in the marketplace, Airbnb should have to do the same.

As it stands now, I see Airbnb as more of a benefit for leisure travelers due to the issue of liability. For an individual traveling for pleasure, it can be fun to take a risk. In some ways, that’s what traveling is all about — trying new things and taking chances. Sure, staying in a two-bedroom walkup in Chicago’s South Side is off the beaten path, but it’s more cost-effective than a night at the Trump International, and might make for an interesting experience. However, for the business traveler, who’s representing their company’s interests, the increased liability from a night at an Airbnb raises significant issues that might make the corporate travel manager wince.

What remains to be seen, since the sharing economy is so new, is hard proof that it is either helping or hurting the economy. In my opinion, Airbnb will have a positive impact on the economy. It will bring travelers to cities like New York where they might otherwise not have been able to afford a $300-plus hotel room. While they’re here, those travelers will visit our restaurants, theatres, bars and stores and spend money that will come back to us in the form of sales tax and be applied to programs that benefit residents. That’s a great thing. Additionally, increased income from Airbnb rentals will stimulate the economy as people renting out their rooms will be able to afford their homes (Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky says the company is an innovative solution to foreclosure), eat out more, shop more, travel more and even pay to fund their business projects and college educations as I recently read in a few articles on the subject.

The bottom line is that the sharing economy is here to stay, and I am looking forward to the next wave of disruption. As the rock band the Fine Young Cannibals once said, ”Don’t look back.”

Photo: _TuVeuxMaPhoto_/Flickr

Posted by:Paul Metselaar

 

3 Necessary Experiments of Risk & Reward – Control risk, learn to hustle, provide value, earn reward.


A few days before Christmas I was at my company’s party at a high-end restaurant in the city. I was dressed to-the-t in a full glen-plaid suit and was feeling a bit loose from a few blackberry mojitos I had knocked down. It wasn’t yet a sloshed or grogy feeling haze, I was still in more of an enlightened point of reflection phase of inebriation. It was in this state that I had an idea. When I say “it was in this state” — it was actually on the way to the big boy’s room before the main-course arrived.

I’m constantly looking for ways to test my mettle, to see what I’m made of, to better myself.

At this time it came in the form of an entrepreneurial betterment — a test of risk. In my mind the most essential thing any freelancer, entrepreneur or business person in general has to be comfortable with in any situation is risk. We have to be able to throw caution to the wind and act — and get something out of it. We have to be comfortable doing the un-comfortable things; the key to this though is that the un-comfortability has to reap reward.

So, back to my idea. As I was walking towards the boy’s room I reflected on my recent trip to NYC, and how every single bathroom I visited had a “wash man” within that would turn on the sink, spray soap on my hands and hand me a towel — I’d then hand him a couple bucks or a fiver and head about my business. This is when a light went off in my head.

There are no “wash men” in Sarasota, FL — surely not at the restaurant I was at, but who knew that other than natives? This is a really fine restaurant anyways, it isn’t “beyond the scope of reason” to believe they might have one. So I made a commitment to myself upon entering the restroom.

Experiment #1: The “Wash Man”

If someone came in as I was washing my hands I would act as a wash man for the restaurant.

I would put a dollop of soap in their hands, turn on the faucet, and hand them a towel. The key point was I would see if they gave me a tip. (if they didn’t I’d throw soap on them.. ok not really, but it was all an idea at this point — so why not?)

This is a very simple experiment but it ultimately nails the experience every entrepreneur will undoubtably face and needs to be comfortable with.

  1. Commit to an un-familiar (or otherwise risky) experience.
  2. Hustle — using the resources available to you.
  3. Use your own process as you see fit, find out your own way using prior observation.
  4. Engage with a customer you have never met before.
  5. Earn money in real time for the service (or product) you offer.
  6. Face possible rejection, as the person could have easily worked at the restaurant and called you out on it immediately.
  7. Succeed or fail, receive feedback to improve processes.

So as it turned out, no one entered the restroom while I was there. I just stood at the sink washing my hands and dazing off into the cascading water in deep thought for a good few minutes. I actually got kind of annoyed that no one came in so I decided to stand next to the sink for another 3 minutes (literally) and still no one came in.

Eventually I left the restroom, but as I was standing there in that agonizingly anxious 3 minutes I thought of a couple more experiments I could partake in to test my mettle under the same basic principles:

  1. Resources I had.
  2. Processes I needed to put in place.
  3. Hustle to make it happen.

So here are the other 2 of the 3 experiments you can use to really test your risk-to-comfort ratio and maybe earn a penny in reward.

Experiment #2: Give someone a ride using “Lyft

Yepp, Lyft.

If you’re unfamiliar with this app, it’s essentially an “Uber” but you are the black car. You sign up and you can either give people a “Lyft” or you can get a “Lyft” from someone else. You just use the app just as you would Uber and find people to give rides to or get a ride from someone in your area.

The best part about it is you get paid for the people you cart around (and maybe make a new friend? Business contact? You get it).

Just sign up to be a driver and go cart someone around. It’s going to be odd for you, even uncomfortable — that’s the point. Offer a service using the resources you already have available to you (your car) and earn a reward. It’s the fastest way to tell if you’re cut out for the business.

Who knows, if you’re lucky something like this could even happen!

http://youtu.be/VNM7Z7hir_I

That would be worth every damned penny.

Experiment #3: Host your pad on “AirBnb

Oh AirBnb, the darling child of the startup world. You beautiful “sharing-is-caring” love-child, you.

Set up a profile on AirBnb and host your location while you go on vacation, or just host a “private room” of your house. This is a very simple “Resource to Reward” experiment. It will undoubtably test your stomach though, as most would be very uncomfortable giving away access to all of their worldly possessions to a complete stranger for a set amount of time. It’s really very safe and secure though.

It’s another classic risk & reward situation.


If you want to grow as an entrepreneur or business person — or just someone who wants to open up and come out of their comfort zone more often (while gaining a buck) these are all experiments that you can use to better yourself.

No one is forcing you to do these, but no one is forcing you to become an entrepreneur. You need to be able to start something yourself, define something that you can offer — whether it be a service or product — and be able to be compensated for it. You will have to face risk, you will have to be comfortable in the face of total strangers, you will have to hustle and define your own processes. These are the building blocks for any business, and all of these are easily within your reach.

Test yourself, see if you can do it. I know you can — you just need to commit. Get your foot out of the door & start making your own way.

Success after risk of failure is addicting. If you commit to doing one of these 3 experiments (or find one of your own) — and succeed, you will not be as afraid to act on future ventures. You will happily stride into the unknown and emerge with self-confidence and the drive to keep testing your boundaries, to push higher, for more, and be comfortable doing so.

It all starts with a simple hunch, “what if I” this is where brilliance starts. Where it ends is up to you.


If you dig this post please give it a “recommend” below and let more people learn from these experiments!

Written by

Marketer, blogger, and creative. Startup, design & self-improvement enthusiast. A self-critic and hopeful optimist. Consultant for hire.  —  @snsmth

 

Is design a part of mainstream startup culture now? Absolutely.


GigaOm’s Roadmap Conference opened yesterday with a clear message from Instagram co-founder Kevin Systrom  — “some of the biggest services in the world started off with really simple problems.” The day’s themes were around focussing your product, going deep on user experience, empowering meaningful, high-quality content, and embracing design as a way of running your startup. It was an inspired roster of speakers and a promising outlook for the role of design in startups.

Focus Your Product + Go Deep on User Experience

Kickstarter’s Perry Chen talked to their team’s desire to stay small and focussed saying, “We want to do great things, but we want to stay small. To stay committed to the one thing that we do well. To shape the experience around this one thing that we’re committed to.” Similarly, Evan Williams shared that the goal of Medium, a product aimed at re-inventing publishing, “isn’t to reach the entire world; it’s to create depth of value.” And the strict focus and product experience was echoed even further by Systrom. “Once products become really popular,” he said, “there’s a tendency to expand into additional verticals. But I decided really early that what we were going to do instead is take what we have and go really deep on the user experience. What can we do to make this experience superlative? What can we do to shave off load time? We believe that user experience is what makes people come back to the product again and again.”

The startup community has matured. “You’re going to have the smartest people in the world working as hard as they can, competing at every corner of the industry,” Williams said. So stay focused on your core mission and go deep.

Empower creators of high quality content.

Malik spoke to one of the major pain points of the internet — there’s simply too much information out there and not enough context. Twitter’s main API, for example, is called “The Firehose” — and it’s exactly that, a stream of new content with very little context and parsing.

But over the last few years, the shift has been towards the creator. For Instagram, it’s not about consumption, but about participation. During the past week’s hurricane, over 800K photos were tagged #Sandy  — compared to the Super Bowl’s 85K. “You weren’t far away,” Systrom said, “You weren’t watching it on TV. You were participating in real time.” For Kickstarter, their bets are on creators. Chen said that “2% of the population is creators. 60K people have created projects on Kickstarter. And 3,000,000 people have backed a project.” For Medium, they’re betting on the fact that all creators are not created equal. “One of the things we’re trying to go contrary on at Medium is that it’s not always about new,” Williams said. Medium aims to improve quality on the web by empowering those influences who have better stories to tell and better insights to share.

Embrace design as a way of running your startup.

Design’s role in startups has long been misunderstood. AirBnB’s co-founder Joe Gebbia shared that when AirBnB launched in 2008 their founding team of 2 designers and 1 engineer were introduced to 20 investors. And of that group, 10 replied, 3 met them for coffee, and zero invested. “We broke the mold of the traditional founding model for a startup,” Gebbia said. “People had a hard time understanding how a designer from art school could run a successful internet business.”

Zooming out even further, Systrom questioned the very role of design in a startup, asking if designers were even necessary in every company? “No,” he answered, referencing commodity businesses where simply shipping a product at a low cost might be all you need. “But,” he added, “if you decide that user experience is core to your company and if you believe that it can push the way forward, everything from the slides you put up at board meetings to the way you interview people matters.”

AirBnb baked design in from day one — taking the time to design the entire user experience from the maps to the review forms. Warby Parker? Same thing. CEO and co-founder Dave Gilboa thoughtfully discussed that they spent a year and a half designing a beautiful site, thick card stock printed elements in their packaging, and a really polished product. And Medium? They’re competing for designers because, as Williams stated, “they’re no longer a nice-to-have.”

If yesterday’s Roadmap conference is any indication of where the world’s most talented entrepreneurs are betting, it’s on design’s role as an essential element within the startup to create positive impact in the world. More design-savvy companies means more holistic, richer products. More high-quality content means a higher bar for the internet as a whole. And more understanding around the role of design in a startup means that design is no longer something you slap on at the end, but rather, as Williams said, “a part of everything that you do.”

Written by

Designer, Artist and Storyteller. http://elleluna.com

 

As Marketplaces Evolve, Greylock Places Its Bets


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The idea of marketplaces as a business model for technology startups isn’t new. We saw some marketplaces go belly up in the bubble, and saw a few, like eBay, grow into massive businesses. However, the marketplace model has experienced a renaissance of sorts lately, with companies like Airbnb, Uber and others gaining serious traction and becoming billion-dollar-plus businesses.

Greylock Partners held a conference in mid-November devoted to talking about design, product development, the economics and more around marketplaces, spearheaded in part by the firm’s newest partner and former eBay Motors creator, Simon Rothman.

4363v3-max-250x250As part of its new $100 million commitment to investing in marketplaces, Greylock assembled Reid Hoffman, Airbnb co-founder and CEO Brian Chesky, eBay CEO John Donahoe, Nobel Prize Laureate and marketplace expert Alvin Roth, and many others to discuss the rise of marketplaces and much more. I was able to sit down with some of the speakers to talk about their thoughts on why marketplaces are hot right now.

Hoffman, who founded LinkedIn and was an early investor in Facebook, sees many parallels between networks and marketplaces. On the similarities in both models, he says: “There’s a question of how do you identify people? What reputational systems underlie it? What kinds of information and signaling? What kind of transactions go public? There’s some differences, too, but it’s essentially a similar brain activity.”

As for why marketplaces are getting more attention now, Hoffman believes that it’s in part due to mobile and the progression in human behavior. “Now everyone is comfortable with the notion of, ‘Oh, I could actually find someone I don’t know and transact with them, either as travelers, hosts, sellers, buyer.’ Those that can actually work mean that I have some trust in these mechanisms,” he explains further.

Rothman agrees with Hoffman, and told me that trust is a huge element of why marketplaces have evolved, as well as the biggest challenge for these marketplaces. “They’re really selling trust. And until the web adds social identity, I think creating trust at scale is really hard. As we’ve heard, marketplace is about influence, and if you can’t control the experience, if you can’t control the product, you can’t control the fulfillment. All you can control is trust and you need to have that. And then mobile is an accelerant to that. If you are a local market, or a local business, you have to have mobile. There’s just no way Uber works without mobile,” he says.

Reid Hoffman

Reid Hoffman

So how do marketplaces add trust? Hoffman advises to look at mechanisms by which you can essentially borrow some trust and add it to the product, such as using social networks or identities. He recalled a product development from his PayPal days, where an engineer developed a better way to authenticate bank accounts.

For years, in order to authenticate a bank account you had to send in a voided check, and a copy of your drivers license. PayPal realized that if they wanted to get to scale, the company would have to make it easier to create accounts. “If we can’t solve this problem, we basically don’t have an interesting business model,” he said. One of the early engineers developed a way to send two sub-dollar transactions to the account, to create a PIN of sorts for instant verification.

While friction is something most marketplaces want to remove, Rothman argues that some should consider “the concept of strategic friction” when it comes to trust and safety. He thinks it’s one of the only places where friction is not only tolerable but kind of desirable.

Of course, one of the marketplaces where trust and safety have been of the utmost importance is Airbnb. Hoffman recalled when he heard Airbnb’s pitch, he was in immediately. “When Brian and his cofounders pitched me, I stopped them a couple of minutes in, I said look I’m interested in investing. I want to hear the rest of the pitch and talk about it, but I get this already.”

Hoffman says that Airbnb was creating liquidity out of space. Even if the hosts didn’t own their real estate, the liquidity involved is “hugely valuable and motivating to them.” So, they’ll adopt mobile products, and go through hoops to make that happen. “There was no question that this is going to work,” he says.

But Hoffman recognized that there have been bumps in the road when it came to trust and safety–but he said that what made the difference was Chesky and his team’s hard work is setting things right. “Brian motivated the entire company within six weeks, and said We are revamping trust and safety, in the same kind of pattern he was talking about in terms of developing for mobile,” Hoffman recalls.

Separately at the conference, Chesky talked a bit about design, and how he approaches designs at the company. Airbnb launched a complete redesign of its mobile app in November, and Chesky was involved in every part of the three months it took to implement and create the new design, even forgoing hiring efforts. While it took three months end to end to launch a new version of the app, the actual design took place in a matter of three weeks.

Brian Chesky

Brian Chesky

When doing the design, the company put up a huge wall where they printed every single screen in the app and placed it on the wall. It amounted to around three hundred separate pages. Chesky learned at art school that you need to draw the whole canvas before rendering because you lose perspective. People tend to get stuck on one page in a design or redesign, and I didn’t want that to happen.

And because the design has to cater to two groups, the host and the guest, one team would design the pages from the guest point of view and another from the host point of view. Chesky also met with the designers every couple of days or even every day and that was really, really critical to the speed of design and overall success of the project, in his opinion.

One speed bump that many of these marketplaces hit is regulatory pushback. Every large marketplace of late, including Uber and Airbnb, have had challenges dealing with local regulatory agencies. In fact, Rothman says that “any interesting marketplace will hit regulatory issues…largely, if you’re not hitting a regulation issue, the likelihood that the marketplace is interesting is very low. Not zero, but very low.”

Hoffman is familiar with this, as even networks hit regulatory challenges. He explains:

“I think the simplest way to understand regulation is, there’s a bomb, there’s a fuse, you’ve lit the fuse. And you have to figure out how long the fuse is and how fast it’s burning. And you have to pay attention to that. And then depending on what you think the dynamics are, and there’s certain things you think that can accelerate this fuse or not.”

He advises that in the early stages of any marketplace that may hit regulatory snags, founders should figure out what their engagement strategy is. “You don’t want to pre-sell [regulators] on the benefits. You want to get to where they just look around at host sipping coffee and say, “Oh, how was it being a host? How was it being a traveler. Oh, great.” He says you shouldn’t stick your head in the sand, and ignore regulators but also going to them early may be futile as most regulators don’t want change.

“So you want to keep that in play to the point where you can build it out and make them go, “Oh, I get this.” And by the way, then, at that point you have a large constituency, if you’re being successful, that also is arguing in your favor and then that allows for regulation change. The regulators, legislators, other people need to figure out what the thing should be.”

Now that Greylock is allocating some of its new $1 billion in funding toward the marketplace model, we’ll be looking to see where the firm will be placing its bets. Rothman thinks that in the next five years there will be more $1 billion dollar marketplaces than there were in the past 20 years, and we already have quite a few that are rising fast. Stay tuned.

http://techcrunch.com/2013/12/27/as-marketplaces-evolve-greylock-places-its-bets/

 

The Operating Model That Is Eating The World


Today’s fastest growing, most profoundly impactful companies are using a completely different operating model

Tesla, the fastest-growing stock in the automotive industry, is run by a software engineer. Amazon has a market cap three times bigger than Target, even though it operates at a loss. Instagram, a company with only thirteen employees at the time, was acquired for a billion dollars just three months after Kodak filed for bankruptcy. These are digital companies doing extraordinary things. But there is a larger pattern here. The dominant players in video, music, retail, recruiting, and direct marketing are also digital companies. This phenomenon is spreading, and by the time it’s through, every category on the planet will be shaken up.

Technology – software in particular – has had a destabilizing effect on traditional business models. The proliferation of personal computing power has leveled the playing field in almost every industry. As products and the means to create them have become digitized (often referred to as software eating the world), production capability has grown more accessible and portable. And the acceleration of that trend (driven by Moore’s Law) means that every single day it gets easier for someone else to compete with your product or service, and to do it better, faster, and cheaper. It used to be that the best day to start your business was yesterday. Now, due to the constant expansion of what you’re able to invent in your garage, tomorrow is almost always a more advantageous starting point.

Speed and access changes everything. Due to the forces above, massive organizations are feeling intense pressure to innovate, as unencumbered startups take shots across their bows. Legacy processes that enforce bureaucracy, command-and-control structures, waterfall development, and risk management are still largely the standard among big corporations, yet they’re liabilities in this fight. Those processes were built for a very particular set of circumstances – ones that don’t persist today. Educational researcher Sugata Mitra explored this notion in his sensational TED Prize acceptance speech, speaking of the British Empire’s bureaucratic approach to managing a far flung empire, “They engineered a system so robust, that it’s still with us today, continually producing identical people for a machine that no longer exists.”

Today’s fastest growing, most profoundly impactful companies are using a completely different operating model. These companies are lean, mean, learning machines. They have an intense bias to action and a tolerance for risk, expressed through frequent experimentation and relentless product iteration. They hack together products and services, test them, and improve them, while their legacy competition edits PowerPoint. They are obsessed with company culture and top tier talent, with an emphasis on employees that can imagine, build, and test their own ideas. They are maniacally focused on customers. They are hypersensitive to friction – in their daily operations and their user experience. They are open, connected, and build with and for their community of users and co-conspirators. They are comfortable with the unknown – business models and customer value are revealed over time. They are driven by a purpose greater than profit; each has its own aspirational “dent in the universe.”

These organizations may start small (like Medium, Hipchat, Circa, Outbox, and Quirky), but they can get bigger fast (like Airbnb, Dropbox, Evernote, Uber, Tesla, Square, and Jawbone), and ultimately dominate markets (like Amazon, Google, Twitter, Facebook, and Paypal).

Looking at that lineup, it’s easy to assume that this new approach is limited to companies that make software, but the reality is more complicated. As software “eats” new categories and verticals, the winners (and the categories themselves) start to look more like technology platforms (think: Uber vs. car services, Twitter vs. the news media, Amazon vs. the department store, or Airbnb vs. hotels). The physical world that we used to value so much – the devices, cars, real estate, and other infrastructure – are merely inventory for something bigger. The value, it seems, is in the data, the tools, and the optimization of markets.

Here we see the five domains nested, creating a rich interplay between the why, how, who, and what of the organization

At Undercurrent, we spend our days and nights helping clients embrace this reality. Through our work on the front lines, we’ve found that the shift these new organizations represent can best be understood through five nested domains: Purpose, Process, People, Product, and Platform. They are nested because each P informs the remaining Ps inside it (e.g. Purpose informs choices you’ll make about Process, People, Product, etc.). In each case, important changes are redefining the work of the organization. Because the interconnected ways of working that define this model were largely born in the software community, we often refer to them as an “Operating System” or OS (and we’re not alone). In this new Digital OS, a visionary (not commercial) Purpose guides an agile (not linear) Process that enables People who make (not manage) Products built to evolve (not built to last) which become Platforms for the world (not just your company) to build upon. That’s a mouthful, so let’s take a look at each one and go a bit deeper.

PURPOSE

Why are we doing this?

Every organization, no matter how large or small, needs a reason for being. In a Digital OS, the organization’s Purpose provides a true north for the culture. People work harder, smarter, and longer when they know their efforts are in service of something bigger than themselves. Without a meaningful Purpose acting as a trump card, many operating models break down at scale, as the demands and expectations of shareholders or boards begin to derail the decision-making process in favor of short-term gains. Leading Digital OS companies are often extremely upfront with investors about their Purpose-driven nature (see shareholder letters from Zuckerberg or Bezos) and even structured to protect founder control. This is not to say these firms don’t value scale, influence, or profitability. They aspire greatly in these areas, but only in service of their vision.

THE SHIFT: FROM GROWTH AS A COMMERCIAL AGENDA TO GROWTH AS A VISIONARY AGENDA

EXAMPLE: GOOGLE’S PURPOSE IS TO ORGANIZE THE WORLD’S INFORMATION AND MAKE IT UNIVERSALLY ACCESSIBLE AND USEFUL

PROCESS

How will we do this?

Every activity within an organization is conducted according to an implicit or explicit method. New capabilities and tools have unlocked different ways of making decisions and doing our work. While an organization’s processes are initially developed to ensure results and quality, they can easily become inhibitive. In many legacy organizations, the number of hoops involved in compliance has created friction that prevents savvy employees from doing their best work. In the service of managing legal risk, these companies have given up agility, creating a strategic risk that threatens their very survival.

Accordingly, Process is one of the domains most fundamentally impacted by technological disruption. For organizations using a Digital OS, Process is an evolutionary force, and must be managed carefully and with a healthy skepticism. Cultures like Netflix or Valve espouse that if you hire only the best people, rigid Process is unnecessary or even detrimental. They believe that high performers can be trusted to use good judgment, and that the vast majority of mistakes are survivable.

Processes that are adopted within Digital OS cultures tend to be focused on experimentation, autonomy, and speed. Words like agile, lean, and user-focused dominate the process conversation. From Holacracy to Lean Startup Method, these processes are not about control or risk – they’re about getting better every day.

THE SHIFT: FROM PROCESS AS QUALITY ASSURANCE TO PROCESS AS ITERATIVE IMPROVEMENT

EXAMPLE: QUIRKY’S TRANSPARENT AND RAPID R&D PROCESS VETS PRODUCTS WITH CONSUMERS AT EVERY STAGE: FROM IDEA, TO DESIGN, TO PRODUCTION AND DISTRIBUTION

PEOPLE

Who will do this?

The world’s most successful organizations value great people. Some call them “A Players.” Others call them “stunning colleagues.” In all cases, high talent density is everything. What’s in flux today is what makes someone great. Legacy HR models tend to value “managers” – people with graduate degrees from prestigious business schools with years of experience leading initiatives in their chosen field. As a result, a typical day in corporate America is peppered with meetings and PowerPoint presentations. Planning has become the work. Intuitively, we know that’s not right. To win in the marketplace, someone has to create and deliver exceptional products, services, and experiences, and planning won’t get us there. In a Digital OS, the emphasis on People is all about making. “Makers” are people who have skills (as opposed to credentials). They think by doing: experimenting, testing, and learning. Within these high performance cultures management has evolved into something more akin to mentorship. The thinking goes, if workers are capable of making decisions about their priorities and workflow, what’s left for the manager is skills development, knowledge sharing, and helping with roadblocks – the Montessori method gone corporate.

THE SHIFT: FROM PEOPLE AS MANAGERS OF COMPETITIVE ADVANTAGE TO PEOPLE AS MAKERS OF COMPETITIVE ADVANTAGE

EXAMPLE: VALVE HIRES AMAZING PEOPLE THAT LOVE MAKING GAMES AND LETS THEM CHOOSE THE ROLES THEY FILL AND THE WORK THEY DO EVERY DAY, NO MANAGERS REQUIRED

PRODUCT

What are we doing?

Product is anything that an organization offers its customers and users, inclusive of services. The act of developing products and services used to be limited to a privileged few. Getting products manufactured and out into the market was a long, expensive, and linear process. Legacy brands today continue to view product development that same way. In a Digital OS, the product portfolio is a result of constant experimentation, creating MVPs (minimum viable products) that can hit the market and begin soliciting feedback. It’s here that the real learning begins. Many product concepts and MVPs are fundamentally flawed, and the best time to figure that out is quickly, before millions are invested in scaling and promoting a system that may not deliver. Digital OS cultures make small mistakes early and often, and only scale when the fit between product and market is sound. What’s more, products expand and take shape based on market feedback and signals, often much faster and more dramatically than legacy products. Healthy product development is friction-oriented and never-ending. Great products solve problems. They iterate based on feedback. They leave open the possibility of future expansion/exploration.

THE SHIFT: FROM PRODUCT BUILT TO LAST TO PRODUCT BUILT TO EVOLVE

EXAMPLE: DROPBOX STARTED WITH A FOUR MINUTE VIDEO OF A SERVICE THAT DIDN’T EVEN EXIST YET, AND BUILT A CLOUD BUSINESS WORTH BILLIONS ONE USER AT A TIME

PLATFORM

What are we doing that’s bigger than us?

Platform is one of the most misunderstood ideas in the world of the Digital OS. Platforms can be accidental or intentional. In this model, a platform is a foundational product that moves beyond product status by encouraging others to build, play, and/or iterate on top of it. In a platform, the value and utility of the system is continually being discovered and expanded not just by the organization, but by its users and customers. Put simply, Platforms are shared innovation engines that outsource the costly and uncertain discovery process. For example, when Twitter notices a startup doing something innovative with its API, it has three choices: buy them, compete with them, or shut them down. With hundreds of developers exploring possible applications for Twitter’s users and data, they greatly accelerate their exploration of future value. Many platforms today are 100% software, but they don’t have to be. Both AirBnB and Uber turned the physical world (cars and housing) into a platform for millions. In those networks, the users are building businesses on the back of the platform, and in some cases changing how they operate in order to better serve the platform.

THE SHIFT: FROM A PLATFORM THE COMPANY BUILDS UPON TO A PLATFORM THE WORLD BUILDS UPON

EXAMPLE: LEAP MOTION’S DEVICE WAS BUILT AS A PLATFORM FROM DAY ONE, AND DEVELOPERS HAVE INVENTED COUNTLESS USES, INCLUDING IRON MAN INSPIRED ROCKET DESIGN


The real magic of a Digital Operating System occurs when these domains interact with each other. A living, breathing organization experiences constant interplay between them – a tension that can drag it down or take it to new heights. New People may balk at old Processes and institute new ones that spread. A hero Product may evolve into a Platform without consent, connecting the brand to a community in a powerful new way. The point is that an OS is something that is shaped with intent and governed by purpose, but constantly evolving to stay ahead of the changing tide. As we venture deeper into this digital age where circumstances change quickly and customers demand more, employing a model that embraces adaptation increases the likelihood of increased growth, profitability, and durability.

With this new Operating System in hand, we have an enhanced capacity for analyzing and transforming organizations in the digital age. It is incumbent on today’s leadership to examine each of these domains to ascertain the relative health and readiness of their business. A Digital OS can be applied at any level within an organization: an individual, a team, a department, or a division. In fact, in our experience, a rogue unit operating with pure Digital OS is often the best method for insurgent transformation of the enterprise. Like the original Skunk Works that paved the way, this method of doing business needs space to breathe and mature, before it spreads like wildfire.


Special thanks go out to Clay Jones, Mike Arauz, Lucy Chung, Alex Chung, and Bud Caddell for reviewing and editing this piece.

Disclaimer: Undercurrent’s partners are active seed stage investors, with investments or advisory positions in Uber, Quirky, Outbox, and Circa.

Further Reading

The memories of a Product Manager: My Product Management Manifesto

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Written by

CEO of Undercurrent. Author of Game Frame. Friend to misfit toys.

 

“When are you going to start your own company?”


 

I get asked this question frequently. I reckon this is because

 

1. It’s the hot thing to do. There is general startup fever in the tech industry, fueled by particularly eye-catching success stories like Instagram, Dropbox, Airbnb, Pinterest, Square, etc. and easier pathways to entry like idea-less application to YCombinator.

 

2. I have worked at two early-stage startups now, which may indicate (a) I like / am predispositioned to like startups and/or (b) I have learned something about startups, and actually just see point 1. It’s the hot thing to do.

 

I have many answers to the implicit “why not now?” but the all-encompassing one is that I ultimately care most about creating value for the world and at this moment starting my own company is not a leading contender as a means to achieve that goal. To rephrase and elaborate:

 

Image representing Tracy Chou as depicted in C...

Image by None via CrunchBase

 

At this moment I believe I can create more value working as an engineer for someone else’s growing and successful company than starting a company for the sake of starting a company, lacking a mission I’m passionate about, and without as self-sufficient a set of skills, resources, or insights as would give me confidence in my ability to be successful in a meaningful product- and team-building endeavor.

 

I also believe I can set myself up for creating more value down the line by learning as much as possible about building products and teams in my current environment at Pinterest and in the broader Silicon Valley ecosystem, where I am surrounded by incredible engineers, designers, product managers, community managers, partner managers, marketers, lawyers, HR managers, investors, general-purpose operators and hustlers, mentors, managers, leaders, and everybody else who makes everything happen, as we iterate on and grow products and teams. Here is a good place to be, because it’s where the capital and talent is dense, and ambition and audacity abound.

 

But that’s not to forget that there are a lot of big problems out there. Outside the bubble of the Valley and its iPads and Teslas and “scrappy” startups with fully stocked microkitchens, there are big gaping holes in the fabric of society left to patch.There is appalling inequity in access to clean water, education, healthcare; across countries, socioeconomic classes, genders, ethnicities — I have been so privileged that I sometimes feel guilty for how much I have and take for granted, but I know that I am learning and that these lessons I am learning will still be imminently useful in a future career more directly guided by achieving social impact.

 

On the technical side I’m learning now how to build products: how to prototype and build out web and mobile apps, how to design and scale systems and codebases, how to iterate with design and product and community. On the people side I’m learning now how to work with teams, particularly teams that need to grow and are growing, I’m learning about hiring, culture, communication, decision-making, management, leadership.

 

And even more than all that I’m learning to see the power of technology and where it can take us. I’m learning now how technology can make people’s lives more efficient and delightful and even fully transform them. “Life 2.0″ startups a la Uber (”everyone’s private driver”) and Postmates (one-hour on-demand delivery service!) in San Francisco can seem frivolous, services for the 1% or even 0.1%, but they illustrate how technology, artfully applied, can completely change the character of one’s day-to-day schedule — I can see eventual applications of this service model in more efficient job marketplaces. Beautiful apps like Flipboard and Paper don’t really seem necessary for anything, but they push the envelope in user interface and interaction design — I can see eventual applications in intuitive education software designed for self instruction, distributed on cheap tablet devices to the economically disadvantaged, who may not have access to good, if any, teachers or classrooms.

 

So when am I going to start my own company? I don’t know when, or even if — but if that time does come that I truly believe the most effective way to achieve impact is to start my own company (or non-profit), I’m hope I’m ready with the skills, resources, and insights to do something great.

 

medium -> https://medium.com/little-thoughts/eba7c025ccf6