Friday, April 15, 2011

Outrunning the Angry Bear

Angry bear courtesy of icanhazcheeseburger

A lot of Silicon Valley types are perfectionists. They always worry that their solutions are imperfect. That's when I advise them to follow the "Angry Bear Principle":

You don't have to outrun the angry bear--you just have to run faster than the other people the bear is chasing.

Whenever people dwell on their imperfections and despair, I remind them, you don't have to outrun the bear, just the competition.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

The TechCrunch Paradox

In the beginning, you read TechCrunch because it covered stuff other people didn't.

Now, you read TechCrunch because it covers stuff everyone else is covering.

Both make sense, yet are diametrical opposites. Discuss!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Power Of The Extreme Example


One of the entrepreneurs I've advised called me Yoda, because he said I was always using Jedi mind tricks to persuade him. He must not have minded, since he presented me with a Yoda bobblehead, which I keep on my mantel.

One of my favorite tricks is to combine the power of the extreme example with the power of reversal. I start by deliberately using an extreme example that my conversation has to agree with.

For example, if I needed to persuade someone of the importance of changing one's dietary habits, I might say, "What if I told you that you would die tomorrow without a special medicine only I possessed? How much would you pay for that?" Presumably the answer is, "a lot."

Then I would slowly walk my way back from the extreme example, coaxing the person along each step. "Okay, what if you weren't going to die tomorrow, but in 20 years? Now how much would you pay?"

After that, "How much would you pay to halve your chance of death in the next 20 years?" Let's say my hypothetical conversation partner says $100,000.

Now here's the real trick--reverse the question. By coming at the same issue from the opposite angle, you can induce insight. "How much money would I need to pay you to get you to eat right and exercise?" He'll probably answer something like $10,000.

"So let me get this straight," I say, "You'd pay $100,000 to halve your risk of death, but it would only take $10,000 to get you to eat right and exercise--which would cut your risk of death by over 70%. How about if you give me $100,000, and I'll pay you $10,000 to eat right and exercise?"

They usually don't take me up on my generous offer.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Death of the Feed

Image courtesy of the awesomely cool Russell Beattie

I remember in 2001 when I first heard about RSS. Back then, we still called them weblogs, and there were so few blogs that it was news when a new one started. For example, I distinctly remember reading excitedly about a promising new VC blogger named Jeff Nolan from SAP Ventures.

At first, I just visited selected blogs regularly, checking for updates like I did on my sports websites. Then I learned about RSS and started following blogs using Bloglines.

For years, my RSS reader was my most important source of information. But gradually, I've found it's getting displaced. Not by Twitter, as many people have argued, but by group and personal filtering systems.

In some ways, it's back to the future--once again, I fond myself checking just a few sites and services. But this time, it's due to a surplus of content, rather than a paucity. Both my RSS reader, Twitter feed, and Facebook feed are overwhelming. Reading every item would literally be a full-time job. Instead, I find myself dipping into the stream on an occasional basis.

Here are my information consumption habits:
  • RSS feed of close friends (to keep up with their thoughts and activities)
  • @mentions on Twitter (to see who's reacting to my tweets)
  • Techmeme (to see what everyone is talking about)
  • Hacker News Daily (to see what young technical entrepreneurs are talking about)
  • Summify/My6sense (personalized feed filters to tell me what my network is talking about)
  • Twitter (dropping in to see what's shaking, much like cruising a neighborhood and checking for parties)
  • Facebook (ambient awareness of what my casual friends and acquaintances are doing)
What's interesting to me is the balance between personalized and general. The personalized news sources help me maintain relationships and keep me informed about my little world; the general news sources help me discover new insights and information sources.

Perhaps the is the natural long-term balance; more personalized than the old pre-Internet mainstream media, but with a core of commonly read information to help set the agenda.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Money is not the answer


The US spends more on healthcare than any other nation. We spend more on education than all but Switzerland. Yet the results we get are poor because our approach is wrong. So why would things be any different for your average startup?

Money is a turbo booster. It allows you to get to your destination faster, but if you're on the road to perdition, all it does is get you to disaster faster.

First make sure you're on the right track, then add money.

Blogging Update

My sincerest apologies, dear reader, for having neglected you for so long. I've been extremely busy with work, and I've finally come up for air.

The ironic thing is, I actually have tons of blog posts already loaded in the system--I've been so busy, I haven't even had 90 seconds to send them out.

My promise to you is this: You will get a new blog post every day this week (Monday through Friday). And if I fail, I'll post a poll where you can decide my punishment.