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Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook & The Internet

Envision individuals in creating nations thinking Facebook is the passage to the Internet. They might log into Facebook to gain access to email, Wikipedia pages, climate data, and sustenance costs. In the event that they needed extra administrations like the capability to stream motion picture, they can purchase it with a basic navigate Facebook.

That is Mark Zuckerberg’s vision for Internet.org.

At the Mobile World Congress on Monday, Zuckerberg outlined some of his arrangements for making headway with Internet.org, the activity headed by Facebook to carry Internet connectivity to poor nations around the globe.

While Zuckerberg touted the philanthropic vision of his organization’s objective to associate the following one billion individuals, its vital to note that the task isn’t right for the sole purpose of carrying fundamental administrations to those that don’t have it, but instead carrying a huge number of extra eyeballs to Facebook and its promoters.

“[we are] making it with the goal that we can build the measure of up-offers to memberships when they’re utilizing these fundamental administrations,” Zuckerberg said in his keynote. “They will go to a connection that isn’t incorporated in the essential administrations bundle; a popup that says, alright in the event that you need to expend this, you need to purchase this information plan.”

Facebook is making a long haul guarantee to both information bearers and promoters Zuckerberg said the following one billion individuals to accomplish Internet access won’t be as well-off as those as of recently on Facebook, in this way making it harder to adapt the organization’s administrations. Zuckerberg said the interpersonal organization will sponsor Facebook, Messenger, and different administrations like climate or fundamental news and data, and after that give up-offers in requisitions to convey the entire bundle like a door drug. Those up-offers are the place transporters and Facebook profit.

“The motivation behind why they’re not on [the Internet] is they don’t know why they might need to get access to it,” Zuckerberg said. “[we will show] individuals why its objective and bravo to use the restricted cash that they have on the Internet.”

How Whatsapp Fits Into Internet.org

Facebook as of late used $19 billion to get the versatile informing provision Whatsapp, a requisition Zuckerberg cases will be one of the few administrations to store up a billion clients later on. He guaranteed that, without anyone else present, Whatsapp is worth more than what the organization paid for it.

In creating nations like those Internet.org is focusing on, numerous individuals depend on SMS correspondences because of an absence of information administrations. Whatsapp is as of now prevalent in numerous developing markets, incorporating those in South America and Asia where Facebook’s development was stagnating.

While blasting in fame, Whatsapp was confronting weight to adapt. It as of recently had a membership based plan of action, yet keeping in mind the end goal to handle the onrushing of clients, Whatsapp would’ve required to keep tabs on building out a plan of action. With the Facebook obtaining, Whatsapp was given the chance to center only on development without stressing over income models, since Facebook is taking care of everything.

The Next One Billion

“Joining the world” is Facebook’s vision—one that can’t be attained without the backing of different associations, including the six telecom organizations it collaborated with for the Internet.org activity.

Zuckerberg said the association is searching for an extra three to five accomplices to carry ready for, that will wager huge that Facebook subsidies of social administrations will pay off by up-offering their information plans. In most immature nations, 2g and 3g information systems are as of now accessible; individuals simply don’t comprehend the quality of the Internet yet.

“One thing I think is not difficult to underestimate is that most individuals on the planet don’t have admittance to the Internet,” he said.

In place for Facebook’s technique to work, it will make Internet moderately competitive, and furnish motivating forces like free Facebook access—for individuals to utilize it. Less expensive base, simpler openness and up-offering extra information utilization will at last develop the organization into a worldwide Internet supplier.

A Facebook telephone may have fizzled in the U.s., however it may very well work in universal markets. By utilizing Facebook as an on-incline to the Internet, the following one billion individuals will utilize social logins to control different applications, as well as their whole Internet utilizat


Internet.org Sealed The Deal On What’s App

More than a couple of individuals were shocked when Facebook said it might pay $19 billion for informing application startup Whatsapp, however today Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said that he accepted it was really worth more.

“Assuming that we can benefit work with Whatsapp [and] develop it, it will be a colossal business,” he said today throughout a keynote presentation at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.

He additionally shed a touch of light on why Whatsapp, headed by prime supporter Jan Koum, got intrigued by a Facebook retreat — from every angle, a tie-up that Koum in 2012 guaranteed was not a way he might have needed to take: it was a result of Internet.org, the Facebook-headed activity to carry web connectivity to creating economies.

“Why were we eager to do this together? It was the Internet.org vision and how we can interface the world,” Zuckerberg said. While Koum and Whatsapp likewise appeared to have had the same humanitarian inspiration driving their reality correspondences mastery desire, it might have not been conceivable for them to execute on it as effectively as they will with Facebook.

“In the event that they finished this as a free organization they might have needed to keep tabs on how to construct the organization out, to scale it, yet now they can concentrate on how to join the one to two billion individuals.” He accentuated that Whatsapp might remain totally autonomous however have admittance to all of Facebook’s assets to develop.

Yet one thing that may not develop whenever soon is Facebook’s portfolio of obtained informing new businesses. Asked by somebody in the crowd if he might attempt again for Snapchat — an organization that Facebook evidently has attempted to obtain more than once — Zuckerberg at first totally blanked the inquiry. At that point, when questioner David Kirkpatrick carried it up a second time, he shed a touch a greater amount of a reply.

“Look, when you’ve barely purchased an organization for $16 billion (not checking the Rsus), chances are you are likely done with your acquisitions for some time,” Zuckerberg said.

“With you, I don’t have the foggiest idea,” Kirkpatrick replied.

Today Zuckerberg additionally laid out considerably more insight about how he sees the part of Internet.org.

The thought, he said, is to create an assembly of fundamental web benefits that might be for nothing out of pocket to utilize — “a 911 for the web.” These could be a long range interpersonal communication administration like Facebook, an informing administration, perhaps pursuit and different things like climate.

Furnishing a heap of these complimentary to clients will work like a passage pill of sorts — clients who may have the ability to manage the cost of information administrations and telephones nowadays simply don’t see the purpose of why they might pay for those information administrations. This might provide for them some setting for why they are essential, and that will lead them to paying for additional administrations like this — or thereabouts the trust goes.

“What they imagine for bearers is that it will be dependent upon them to choose what fundamental administrations could be free. Our model and what we’re attempting to raise is putting in an onramp is better for the web and their models. It’s something that we can work out and have a considerable measure of decision in,” he said.

Zuckerberg — who geeked out on particular references to how portable systems might be fabricated and the financials behind Internet.org (there are three zones here, he said: the generally speaking foundation, diminishing the measure of information that is, no doubt utilized, expanding provision productively) — was clear in conceding that Internet.org won’t be a lucrative try from the begin. At the same time he was likewise extremely hopeful.

“I can’t portray any model for the close term of how this might function for publicizing model…  I think we will lose cash on this for some time,” he noted. “Be that as it may we’ve been doing this for just a couple of months and individuals utilizing information within Philippines [where Internet.org has banded together with Globe Telecom] has multiplied from that point forward…  From what we’ve seen and rate of change we’re greatly certain this will be gainful.”

On the proficiency of information administrations alone, he utilized the illustration of Facebook itself. A year back individuals utilized 14 megabytes for every day on Facebook, he said. Right away, with enhancements in packing on their versatile applications, that is currently down to 2 megabytes. The point is to cut that down to 1 megabyte one year from now. (Onavo and its information clamping innovation additionally becomes possibly the most important factor here.)

Zuckerberg was identifying with a room loaded with bearers and he knew it. For somebody who expertly helped lead his organization through raising money and an open offering, now he’s turning his regard for getting purchase in from another class of speculators: he’s searching for between three and five more telcos to convey national activi

How to Succeed as a Millennial Without Really Trying.

Patchwork careers, debt and an indie soundtrack.

The Kids Are Not Alright

I DON’T KNOW ABOUT YOU, but I grew up being told that if I did well in school, participated in a slew of extracurricular activities, volunteered, didn’t “mess around” too much with the opposite sex, didn’t spend all my money on clothes and got into a good college, that I’d be “alright.

So, I checked off all those things and more on my Path to Success Checklist! and then—life happened.

When sophomore year of college I got sick. Really sick. It would take three years to figure out what was making me sick (spoiler: rotting appendix) but the point is, when LIFE interrupted my plan, suddenly that was it.

Game over.

Even as I was moaning in agony on a stretcher in the emergency room, I was still dutifully conjugating Russian verbs and sending reassuring emails to my professors, who were alarmed when I suddenly *gasp* missed a class. “I’m sure it’s nothing!” I told them, my lips curled up in a painful grimace, “I’ll be back in no time! Send me assignments, I can still do work. I can still be good. I can still matter. Nothing, and I mean nothing, is going to ruin this for me! Because I worked hard for this so nothing will take it away! Right?”

Well, that’s the thing that no one tells you when they’re filling your young mind with all these bullshit life equations:


Sometimes that’s true. On a small scale, mostly. You have to allow for a margin of error, an element of unpredictability. When we start reducing life to a series of concrete mathematical concepts—because it feels better than considering that which is unknown to us about the future — we are really setting ourselves up to fail.

After I began to heal, having lost everything that “mattered” in my life, I decided to just do something, anything to feel like I was rebuilding my life even in a small way.

I took jobs here and there. I moved around a little. I fell in love.

And then, I said to myself: what is the most important thing, from a practical standpoint, right now?

The answer, given my health, was health insurance.

So, I applied for a paper-pushing position in a hospital where I would be given health insurance and 40 hours a week of doing something. Best of all, if I had a flare up of illness, hey, I was just an elevator away from the ER.

I was given this job because someone believed in giving me a chance. I didn’t have a completed college degree, but I would do whatever needed to be done. In this case, what needed to be done was a lot of filing and staple pulling.

So, for 40 hours a week, I pulled staples.

For this I had (slightly) above a minimum wage, health and dental and vision, and the nagging feeling that I had sold my soul to the devil somewhere along the line and this must be some kind of hell.

So, I decided that I was going to work on top of work: while I pulled staples, I perked up. I listened hard. I learned. And when opportunities arose, I asked for them. I asked for more. I did everything I was asked to do, no matter how mundane, and I did it damn well. I didn’t complain (at work anyway) and I respected everyone from the guy who mopped the floors to the CEO of the hospital.

I didn’t act entitled to anything more than what I had, but I made it known that I was eager to learn— and would gladly take an opportunity to do so.

After six months, this was rewarded. I got a promotion. And from there, I just kept climbing up the ladder. And I went back to school on the hospital’s dime. And I started writing on the side for extra money. And soon my writing became part of my job.

And then, it was my job.

My day starts at 5:30 am, I spend a half hour responding to emails, Tweets, other social media interactions. I go get my morning coffee. I get in to my office at the hospital at least a half-hour before the eight hour clock starts, so I can organize paper, really listen (not just half-listen) to voicemails and chat with coworkers. For eight hours, I do some things that I really like and quite a few things that bore me beyond belief. For this, I am paid. Then, I go home and write. For this, I am also paid. I peruse Tumblr to de-stress. I read a few pages of a book. Then, I sleep. Many nights I have to take some kind of sedative to shut my brain down, but eventually, I am dreaming.

I’ve realized, though, that I benefit from that eight hour day of mindless tasks. My most creative ideas pop up when my hands are otherwise engaged and my mind can wander around to new places. Around the 50th staple, I get an idea for a novel I might write someday. By the time I’m home at night or on the weekend mornings when my coffee steams in my hand and the sun rises over the bay, I can crank out two or three solid articles— because for 40 hours I could think about how to craft each phrase while simultaneously flipping through large stacks of paper.

I work in a hospital all day and I write mostly about health and healthcare. I live and breathe my work, and it’s not always fun or interesting or “fulfillment” but my bills get paid — and then some. I have earned the freedom to write. I have some security that I didn’t have when I was on the former path to success. I created my own definition of success, and rapidly achieved it— because I was willing to improvise.

I’m twenty two years old. I have three jobs, a pension plan, health insurance, my own car, a nice apartment in a safe neighborhood, a partner who really gets me, and above all else, the slow by steady return of my health and sanity. I achieved all of this by not doing anything I was told would bring me this kind of success but instead, I just did what made sense to me in the moment . . . and hoped for the best.

That being said, do I have “free time?”

No. Not a lot of it. Do I want any? Not particularly. I worked hard to be able to combine my interests and passion into something that I can earn a living doing, so I have the satisfaction each day of knowing that I can get paid to do things that also feel good to me, and are enjoyable.

I didn’t achieve that by waving around a college degree or a proper resume. I got here by knowing my place, working hard and taking opportunities when they were given to me, holding them in my hands like delicate little eggs that did not guarantee any kind of real protection from cracks.

As Gen Y, we were really done a major disservice in our youth. Being constantly praised and built up to believe that we would all succeed if we did everything on our Checklist for Success!, we emerged expecting everyone to fawn over us when we had a college degree! Why no one prepared us for the far more complicated reality of Real World Living is beyond me; but here we are, struggling while our parents and teachers cluck at our “lost potential.”

We are a generation that grew up being promised we were special, and instead we entered adulthood already feeling we were just disappointments before we’ve even had the chance to really live.

I challenge you to shed the paradigm that you will be successful. Instead, think about what will make it easier for you to do the things that you want to do: if you can spend eight hours a day pulling staples so you don’t have to worry about healthcare and paying your rent, then you can and will find ways to do the things for which you have a firey passion.

If you are truly passionate about something, it will seep out of your pores and demand to be felt by everyone around you. Eventually, it will become part of your day to day routine, even if you think it’s impossible.

Passion always finds a way; but it has its own timeline, and anything you do to try to speed it up is only going to exhaust and frustrate you.

Don’t give up; not just on what you truly want, but also the seemingly useless and boring things that you have to do “just to get by” — everything has potential, every single opportunity is a piece of your puzzle. It’s just a matter of figuring out where it fits — and revealing the picture it creates.

Abby Norman writes and drinks coffee on the coast of Maine. Tweet her @abby__norman. You might like another piece of hers on Medium, Hush, the tale of an introvert trying to live as an extrovert.

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Journalism As A Career Is Tainting The Quality Of Journalism


There was a lot of good economic news this week. Amazing M&A transactions, rising stock markets and even Spain getting an upgrade from Moody’s. And yet when every weekend comes I know I will read another journalist telling me that while a lot seems to be going pretty well, that deep down, the world is falling apart.

Venezuela, Ukraine, will not be seen as minor pockets of violence in the most peaceful period humanity has ever lived in, but as signs of much worse to come. Or the Groupon share collapse will not be seen as Groupon under-performing but as an indication of the first air coming out of the economic bubble.

And again I will shake my head and think, where do media organizations find these apocalyptic writers? But today something dawned on me, something quite obvious but that I hadn’t realized before.

It is not the world that’s falling apart, it is journalism that is falling apart. It is the world as journalists know it, that is falling apart. Newspapers, magazines, laying off people, losing ad revs to Google and Facebook, closing down, disappearing. TV news networks losing audience to reality TV. It is people giving up paper for a tiny, mostly free little screen in the palm of their hands. It is people’s publishing in which so many volunteers do for free what journalists get paid to do that is destroying their livelihood, that is undermining the foundations of what used to be known as professional journalism. And the little professional journalism that is left is a winner takes all situation, all readers flock to a few sources like The New York Times and even those winners have barely managed to survive. With smaller staff. All professions have to adapt to changing times but few as much and as quickly as journalism. It’s like the world knows it needs journalists but has not found a way to fit them into the age of news as mobile snippets on Twitter.

So next time you read some surprisingly negative news think that the maxim of what goes up must come down is many times not true. It is not true in the stock market over decades, and it is not true of all the objects that humanity has already shot way into space and are not coming down, ever. But what is true is that many a writer who is forecasting decline has sadly met decline, personally. And that is permeating into what you are reading.

Photo: khawkins04/Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.

Posted by:Martin V.

How Job Descriptions Suffocate Innovation













What if there was a silent killer lurking in corporate corridors? A seemingly benign and well meaning concoction, cooked up by unsuspecting human resource departments with deadly consequences. A mandate for order, control and classification, which leaves no employee untouched or leader blameless. I’m talking about the humble job description – in my view the biggest motivation and innovation strangler in any organisation.

At first my declared distaste for something as innocent and accepted as a list of an employees duties and responsibilities appears like shadow jumping or blatant headline grabbing. Yet the fact that I’ve maintained this crusade against job descriptions for over a decade is, I hope, proof of substance behind my wild rantings. As a CEO I was so deeply against placing someone into a neatly labeled box for years at a time that we developed an alternative employee management system. This simple mind shift became a key driver in propelling our business from 3 employees to over 1,000 in under a decade.

So what is this radical human resource theory? Simply this: Change from command and control job descriptions, that merely list the role, duties and KPI’s, to giving an employee ownership over a constantly evolving group of Prototypes and Projects:

  • Prototypes are the elements that make up someone’s responsibilities that are ongoing in nature e.g. Accounts Payable or Online Security.
  • Projects are responsibilities that have a defined end date e.g. Accounting Software Implementation or New Product Launch Event.

Rather than delve into the intricacies of how these ‘Ownership Responsibilities’ work in practice, let me rather relate how the inadequacies of traditional job descriptions are countered by treating employees like business owners within your organization. As I see it there are six areas where traditional job descriptions (JD’s) suffocate innovation:

1. Ripe and Rotting – because traditional JD’s group all of an employees functional responsibilities into a role they cause very linear, accidental and elongated promotion opportunities i.e. you wait until your boss is promoted, made redundant or dies before a vacancy exists for you to advance. A major cause of staff attrition is leaving ambitious employees ripe and rotting rather than allowing them opportunities to be green and growing.

  • A benefit of implementing Ownership Responsibilities is that employees can have incremental promotions on a monthly basis. Reshuffling their projects and prototypes to give them more responsibility, growth or to recognize performance. Employees will aspire to take responsibility for outcomes rather than a position on the ladder.

2. Bozo Creep – traditional JD’s rarely result in demotions. To drop a level is a significant step backwards and requires an involved counseling / warning process. Hence employee structures created without the ability to routinely demote result in “Bozo Creep” – where companies become full of employees promoted to their maximum level of incompetence.

  • The advantage of having Ownership Responsibilities is that an employee can be demoted on a monthly basis by reshuffling their projects and prototypes, or holding off awarding coveted projects until performance is realised. The end result is a healthier meritocracy.

3. Boss Mentality – traditional JD’s are often used in the performance appraisal process to help a manager assess performance, behavior and KPI’s. This becomes a very oppressive top down approach, and unless you are in a measurable role, can lead to unfulfilled expectations, disputes and a demotivated workforce.

  • Ownership Responsibilities use performance measures taken from project management methodologies to assess time, cost and quality outcomes that are set by the employee at the start of the period on their own projects and prototypes. i.e. staff manage up (to their own often inflated expectations) rather than leaders having to manage down (on KPI’s set by the manager). Resulting in employees more likely to stretch and prove themselves.

4. Inertia to Change – traditional JD’s cause inertia because once employees are given specific responsibilities they expect them to be set in stone, and of course fight to keep them. These static and linear organizational structures are often inflexible to change without a major re-structure, resulting in businesses being slower to capitalize on new opportunities, or respond to changing market conditions.

  • Ownership Responsibilities are reviewed on a monthly basis allowing each employee’s group of prototypes and projects to be quickly reshuffled as required. This is particularly valuable for fast changing small businesses, and to prevent expensive corporate-wide restructures.

5. Defensive Game – traditional JD’s encourage employees to play safe, keep their head down and action the minimum required to keep their job. This discourages risk taking, or conjuring ways to make their role redundant, or acting like a business owner in the interests of the organisation.

  • The best way to encourage employees to seek ways to do their roles better, faster or cheaper is to give them Ownership Responsibilities. Where the reward is to hand over part or all of their old responsibilities to someone else or freeing up their time to focus on the next project or prototype. Essentially winning at the game of business rather than playing not to lose.

6. Employee Silo’s – traditional JD’s encourage managers to keep their employees focused on their own function, division or area of expertise. e.g. marketers only look after customer growth and accounts people only look after finances. This doesn’t give people new opportunities for growth or fresh eyes to look at old problems, nor does it encourage skill diversification and upskilling.

  • Ownership Responsibilities allow for easy cross department involvement. Employees can be on project teams with other divisions or responsible for something significantly different from their traditional role leveraging latent skills and / or experience e.g. the receptionist could also be responsible for running the lead tracking prototype or the accounts receivable clerk could be on the project team for the new web-site implementation.

In my view job descriptions are responsible for suffocating innovation in both large and small organisations. The solution is to give employees ownership responsibility by dividing their role into groups of constantly evolving projects and prototypes. You will find that not only will innovation flourish – staff morale and efficiency will take a major leap forward.

If you found this post interesting follow me for an expansion of this concept in future posts.

Photo Courtesy of iStockphoto

Posted by:Creel Price

Belkin WeMo Home Automation Products Are Not Safe, Security Researchers Claim

Adriana Lee February 19, 2014 Cloud
Belkin WeMo Home Automation Products Are Not Safe, Security Researchers Claim

Security firm IOActive issued a surprise advisory Tuesday urging Belkin WeMo customers to halt use of their smart home products, thanks to its discovery of several vulnerabilities hackers could use to infiltrate home networks and connected home appliances, including thermostats, lights and other devices.

According to a report by Ars Technica, multiple notifications were sent to Belkin from IOActive as well as the U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-CERT), but its failure to respond or address the holes—which include insufficient data encryption, insecure delivery of software updates and other issues—compelled the security researchers to issue the stern warning.

Update Feb 19, 2014 10:00AM PST: According to a ZDNet report, Belkin issued a statement late Tuesday indicating that the company had been in touch with IOActive before the advisory went out and patched five security holes.

ReadWrite reached out to Belkin via email, and the company said it has already addressed security flaws in its WeMo API server, WeMo firmware and WeMo apps, and that products with the recent firmware release (version 3949) are not vulnerable to malicious firmware attacks, including remote control or unauthorized monitoring of WeMo devices.

The company provided the following information:

Belkin has corrected the list of five potential vulnerabilities affecting the WeMo line of home automation solutions that was published in a CERT advisory on February 18. Belkin was in contact with the security researchers prior to the publication of the advisory, and, as of February 18, had already issued fixes for each of the noted potential vulnerabilities via in-app notifications and updates. Users with the most recent firmware release (version 3949) are not at risk for malicious firmware attacks or remote control or monitoring of WeMo devices from unauthorized devices as described in the report. Belkin urges such users to download the latest app from the App Store (version 1.4.2) or Google Play Store (version 1.1.2) and then upgrade the firmware version through the app.Specific fixes Belkin has issued include:

1) An update to the WeMo API server on November 5, 2013 that prevents an XML injection attack from gaining access to other WeMo devices.

2) An update to the WeMo firmware, published on January 24, 2014, that adds SSL encryption and validation to the WeMo firmware distribution feed, eliminates storage of the signing key on the device, and password protects the serial port interface to prevent a malicious firmware attack

3) An update to the WeMo app for both iOS (published on January 24, 2014) and Android (published on February 10, 2014) that contains the most recent firmware update

The post will be updated if more information becomes available.


What is a Startup?

On startup hype and the distinction between a startup and a small business

“I am sick and tired of the word startup. It seems like everyone and their mother has a startup today, I might even start calling the Vietnamese grocery store next doors a food startup.”

Above is part of a response to a recent article of mine that discussed the ambitions of entrepreneurs in Europe and the fact that too many of them focused on local businesses. It is an example of several comments that addressed a growing phenomenon in our region, let’s call it a startup hype.

Definition of a startup

I don’t know whether or not we are experiencing a startup hype. I wouldn’t even know how to define it, measure it or prove its presence or absence and I am not sure if it is worth anyone’s time to do so. But if I was to side with the claim that our region is experiencing a startup hype, I would argue that there is a paradox: we are experiencing a startup hype despite the fact that there are very few actual startups. And part of the reason for such paradox would be the ambiguity surrounding the definition of what a startup is.

Trying to define a startup is a risky affair that I am not going to undertake. Instead, I am going to steal a definition from Paul Graham’s widely circulated article on growth. It makes excellent points on many topics which are worth separate posts, including why it is beneficial for profitable companies to take outside investment or why so many people hate the word startup for wrong reasons.

Paul Graham defines startup as a “company designed to grow fast”. Not just a company that grows fast, since most startups fail (his article explains why), but a company that makes an explicit commitment to grow fast. Such commitment already makes a huge difference as it accents a mindset rather than a factual description — which is exactly what we believe in at Credo Ventures as well.

Of course, the natural question is to ask how fast is fast. Paul Graham’s Y Combinator companies that he considers good grow between 5-7% a week, the exceptional ones at 10%. Ideally in revenue, although Paul Graham explains why the next best metric is active users. A typical company at Y Combinator makes about a $1,000 per week at the beginning of the program.

The natural follow on question is to ask for what period of time. The length of the exponential growth naturally defines how successful the startup will be. Paul Graham makes an example of a company, which grows from $1,000 by 5% for 4 years (and thus makes $25 MM a month in revenue). A great article by Jules Maltz shows what kind of growth do successful companies experience in more mature stages, four years before their IPO.

So how many startups does our region really have?

The point of this post is not to argue whether 2%, 5% or 10% is the right weekly growth. Nor it is to argue that startups should grow by such rate for 2 years, 4 or 8. The point is that if we look at the number of companies in our region that are at least attempting to generate such growth numbers or even thinking of reaching something like $25 MM in monthly revenue (real company net revenue, not value of processed transactions) in four years or even eight, we could cross out vast majority of companies that call themselves startups. I would call them small to medium sized businesses. The end of the startup hype.

Surely a lot of our entrepreneurs will say that such growth is impossible to achieve in a single European country. And yes, the second point of this post is to say that it is very hard. Actually one could make the case it is harder here than in the United States, China or India. But not impossible. I have seen at Benson Oak how our portfolio company AVG grew from low single digits MM in revenues in 2003 to USD 180 MM in 2009. From Brno. Czech Republic, it was later stage than Y Combinator’s companies with $1,000 of monthly revenue, therefore I suppose a revenue CAGR nearing 100% is still pretty good given the company stage. And the 2009 revenue had doubled by 2012 with current valuation of USD 1.2 Bln.

The case for building startups being harder for us in Europe is based on our small domestic markets: companies in China or India can be startups even with a ‘local’ business idea, because their definition of local is in hundreds of millions of potential users. I bow in front of those entrepreneurs who can achieve startup-like growth for a prolonged period of time by having a single-country focus in Europe. They are truly masters of business execution. But based on Paul Graham’s logic I would argue that if we want to run a startup in our region, and achieve startup-like growth, we would have an easier time starting with the premise that we want to build a global company and thus start businesses that stand the test of global competition.

Some globally celebrated entrepreneurs like Richard Branson made their first successes with local businesses such as “CD shops” or virtual mobile operator. But Branson executed them well in a market much bigger than our region. He might have even experienced the kind of growth Paul Graham expects to see in a startup. And those ‘local’ businesses made him a fortune big enough to finance his own space program. I have serious doubts that a local business in Europe will give us a chance to finance our own space program (most likely not even a chance to go through someone else’s program). Maybe I am wrong. But for all those who want to leave their own mark in the universe, I think you have better odds with sticking to a global startup. And for those who don’t, that’s fine, there is nothing wrong with a small to medium sized business. Heck, even big sized business. Just don’t call your company a startup, you will help avoid the startup hype.

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How Jimmy Fallon Has Struck Social Media Gold #FallonTonight

The last few nights I’ve stayed up late (which isn’t too odd if you know me well ☺), but the reason was to watch Jimmy Fallon in his debut week.

I’ve been a huge Fallon fan for some time from when he was on SNL, to Late Night and am beyond thrilled that he is the new host of The Tonight Show.

It’s so exciting to see someone from my generation — a true Gen X-er grab the reins of one of the oldest and most respected shows in the country and make it new and fun and fresh.

The next generation of T.V.

As someone who advises companies how to best use social media to build their brand, watching the brand that Jimmy Fallon has created through social media has been incredible.

It is truly the next generation of how we watch TV and interact with celebrities.

Now, Jimmy Fallon is certainly not the first one to tweet his fans or to use a hashtag — so what makes his formula work so well and have such devoted fans?

I believe it comes down to five things:

  1. Keeping it real. Ask most people what they love about Jimmy Fallon and one of the things people usually say (after they say how hilarious he is) — is how real he is. It’s not just about being authentic, it’s about being humble. Fallon has that rare quality that makes him genuine, relatable and grateful for where he is and how he got there. If there was any doubt, watch the opening clip from his first show. On a personal note — I love how he seems to be just as fired up meeting celebrities as you and I might be.
  2. Surrounds himself with talented people. Look at who he has around him — he has an amazing tribe of talented people on camera and off camera. His social media team did an incredible job building the buzz on Fallon moving to The Tonight Show — creating a countdown and giving people a sneak peek into the pure buzz that was happening at the studios. They didn’t start The Tonight Show and start the buzz there — the buzz had been building for weeks and months, and they used social media as their catalyst to drive that.
  3. He cares a ton about his fans. He talks about his fans all the time — you can tell he is extremely grateful for the support and love he has from his biggest fans. They are always the first ones he thanks and you can just tell it comes from the heart and from a place of humility. He uses social media in a smart way to communicate and crowdsource ideas.
  4. The show has a social strategy. There is a strategic plan in place and you can tell as you look at the content that have on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and other platforms. They integrate all platforms and they don’t just blast the same thing from one platform to another. They respect the audiences in different platforms — and it shows. Part of their social strategy is engaging fans. Imagine if you had a tribe of people who tweeted and blogged about you — that is the power of social media. It’s like word of mouth on steroids.
  5. Blurring the lines between on TV and online. His team has taken a thoughtful and strategic approach to engage their fans and audience members — whether it’s through their new mobile app, on Twitter, on the show’s Facebook page or especially on YouTube. The show is also brilliantly creating viral content every night — bits and digital shorts that have a life on T.V. and then afterward online as well. Don’t believe me — check out this video from a few days ago with 4M views on YouTube or this one with 8M views!

Creating a tribe

Fallon has truly created a tribe of loyal followers and fans and it’s partly because of his talent and his humor — but even more so it’s because people like him.

He is like the buddy you went to high school, or your old roommate from college, or that guy you used to work with who would always make you laugh.

He’s the every man — in a completely charming and charismatic way.

And the cherry on top — he’s killing it in social media. Along the way he’s bringing millions of new fans along for the ride. Kudos to you NBC and kudos to you Jimmy — you certainly have a fan in me. #KeepKillingIt

If you like this article, please click the ‘recommend’ button below or send me a Tweet @katielance. If you’d like more info about how I consult companies with their social media strategies, you can find more info here.

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The Lie of Superman

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5 steps to building something that people love


Too many entrepreneurs are just out to exploit a new market or emerging trend and have very little passion for their product. With neither first hand experience of the market or empathy for their customers they rely purely third party research and cloning an existing business model. They see other startups flocking to a burgeoning market and try to grab their own piece of the pie. What was initially a “blue ocean” soon turns into a “shark infested waters” consisting of nearly indistinguishable products. Their only differentiators beings slightly different bootstrap themes or an extra useless feature.

However, if you build your startup around your passions and what interests you then you will have a much better chance of finding a niche and owning a market. By scratching your own itch and tackling problems you’ve experienced you have the advantage of using your insight to more quickly develop a winning business strategy. Since you are your own target audience you are more likely to know people with similar issues or at least know how to get it touch with them.

What are the main challenges to building a successful startup?

  1. Having a genuinely good idea (i.e. building something customers love)
  2. Being able to execute on that idea (i.e. having the skills and resources to make the idea reality)
  3. Keeping that idea alive (i.e. developing a sustainable business model)

So how can you overcome these challenges in a shorter amount of time and wasting as little money as possible? Here are my 5 simple steps to get you going:

Step 1 — Shape your vision

Think about things that anger you in the world. Ideally focus on things that affect you; that you’re passionate about; and would love to change. Create a vision in your head of what the world would look like if these things WERE fixed. Articulate this vision as clearly as possible, share it with others and use their feedback to make it even clearer. Then turn it into a story that inspires and excites people. You want to have a vision and story that even your grandmother will understand (as well as the rest of her bridge club).

Step 2 — Define your purpose

Why does your startup exist? How will it help to achieve your vision?What is its mission? Is the purpose of your startup to create joy or remove pain? Is it a vitamin or a painkiller?

Vitamins (joy creators) feed a previously untapped need or create a new behaviour/experience. In my opinion Facebook is a vitamin. It didn’t tackle a specific problem but it did elicit a new type of interaction between people.

A painkiller on the other hand addresses a very specific, existing problem. Its purpose is well defined and it is easier to measure its value. Basecamp is a painkiller. It tackles the problem of managing projects with distributed teams.

I believe painkillers are a lot less risky to build than vitamins. The issues they tackle are more tangible and easier to understand. If speed is of the essence then trying to find painkillers is a safer bet.

Once you’ve decided that you’re a painkiller then you’ll need to create a prioritised list of all the problems to tackle. Pick the top three, making sure that they’re high value problems (i.e. the ones that people would pay to have solved). The purpose of your startup is to tackle these.

Step 3 — Take stock of your resources

What skills do you possess? How could you use these skills to fulfil your startup’s purpose? Do you know people with skills that could help you?

If you have all the skills you need to get started then great. You can move quickly. However, if you have to start employing people; make strategic partnerships; or engage with a supplier, then having defined your vision and purpose will be essential if you want to avoid wasting time and money. Your vision and purpose will help these people understand what you’re trying to achieve much better than any feature list or project brief.

Having taken stock of your resources you can now assess whether the problems you identified in the previous step can be tackled by your team. If they can’t you may have to got back to Step 2 and do some refinement around your purpose.

Step 4 — Build your community

As mentioned above if you’re creating something you’re passionate about, identifying your target market should be easy. They’re essentially people like you and so finding early adopters should be relatively quick. Furthermore, if your vision is inspirational enough you can turn these early adopters into evangelists. For early stage startups it’s hard to know whether you’re on the right track and so you want avoid expensive marketing campaigns at the beginning. Your early evangelists will be do this marketing for you at no cost. They will believe so strongly in your vision that they’ll be willing to spread the word. This is where having an engaging story will help, as it will mean the word will spread even faster.

This is may all sound a bit cult-like, but the principles aren’t far off. Make your mission inspirational enough and you’ll have believers and followers appearing from all directions.

Step 5 — Stay focused

Throughout the early stages of your startup you’ll get conflicting advice from many different sources. While most people will have the best intentions their opinions will be biased by their own experiences and their own perception of what you’re doing. Some advice will be good but a lot will be distracting. Having a clearly defined vision will stop you getting sidetracked and led off in an unproductive tangent. Since you’re working in an area that you’re passionate about you will always be the best person to judge on the relevance of any advice. You won’t be tempted by short term gains as you will be focused on fulfilling your purpose and achieving your vision. Believe in your gut!

So getting back to the title of this blog post: by creating an inspirational shareable vision you’re more likely to attract fanatical customers (i.e. create a product people love). And by using the skills and resources at your disposal you will be able to build something in a much shorter time with no need for funding (i.e. quicker and for less money).

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