Lesson Four: Design Counts (not Price)

…..cont’d from

Lesson One: Why Social Media Experts are Idiots

Lesson Two: Do Not Listen To Customers

Lesson Three: The Biggest Challenges Beget the Best Work

Lesson Four: Design Counts (not Price) People do care about Design. Mr. Kawasaki believes that it is about the “skin” of the product and not the algorithm. He learned this at Apple. Put simply, looks matter. Apple product owners have a sense of emotional pride from being an Apple product owner. They believe in the value of beautiful products.

This sense of emotional pride also reminds me of the luxury market. Think Mercedes Benz, Louis Vuitton, Chanel, Burberry, etc….People buy luxury products because it provides a sense of status and equips them with emotional pride. Some would argue that a Toyota runs just as well as a Mercedes, or even better. Some would argue that a $100 handbag functions just as well as a $5000 handbag. So why do people make such purchases when the function is clearly met with a less expensive alternative? Emotional pride. People buy what they want, not what they need. Such high-end purchasers also believe that a luxury product delivers a superior quality compared to a non-luxury product. Price is not important to luxury consumers because they will pay for the Best, or the perception of the Best.

So off to a semi-tangent here…..Consider this photo below of a designer handbag I took from the December 2011 issue of Vogue. On a purely design level, some may consider it attractive, beautiful, cool, awesome, etc…..Others may consider it…..well, ugly. Why would I want a handbag with holes? Why would I want a handbag with these vulgar logos emblazoned all over it? But that’s not the point. These Brands such as Apple (for technology) and Louis V. (for luxury) have become the arbiters of good taste and the authorities for cool in their respective niches. So the irony is that consumers may initially be drawn to a universally accepted “beautiful product”, but the Brands evolve into tastemakers which tell the consumer what they need to buy. They also develop the power to declare what is desirable.

So back to Lesson Four. Design trumps Price. Looks matter. Beautiful products beget emotional pride. Emotion wins. Don’t forget what it means to be authentically human.

Lesson Three: The Biggest Challenges Beget the Best Work

…..cont’d from Lesson One: Why Social Media Experts are Idiots and Lesson Two: Do Not Listen to Customers

Lesson Three: The Biggest Challenges Beget the Best Work. This seems to be in line with conventional wisdom. In the same vein as, “What Won’t Kill You Will Make You Stronger” this could be filed in the ‘Character Building’ box of Life. Mr. Kawasaki believes that if you provide the challenge, employees will rise up. They will rise up and bulid something quite revolutionary, perhaps. As an entrepreneur, how would you motivate your team members to perform with excellence?

I also believe that Freedom Begets Creativity which Begets the Best Work. If an individual feels totally free and uninhibited it becomes an opportunity to create magnificent work. Some people feel that Apple products are a result of creative genius. What products do you possess that are a result of creative genius?

Lesson Two: Do Not Listen to Customers

….. cont’d from Lesson One: Why Social Media Experts are Idiots

Lesson Two: Customers cannot tell you what they need. According to Mr. Kawasaki, Apple does not use focus groups. As an entrepreneur, if you want to make a revolutionary change it is not effective to listen to customers. They will only describe their needs in terms of “better” and “cheaper.” They will not describe them in revolutionary terms. So does this mean, “As an entrepreneur, you need to tell your customers what they need”?

This is interesting. Compare the above Lesson from an Apple disciple with how Eric Ries and his book The Lean Startup posits the value of the customer. The Lean Startup movement or being “Lean” is a very popular topic in the Valley and the Start Up World which has developed somewhat of a cult following. The Lean approach of’ “build, measure, learn” quickly and efficiently  seems pretty customer-centric to me.

So what role does the customer play? Does it depend on the nature of the product/service? Would you prefer to Listen or Tell?

San Francisco 2012 New Year Style

San Francisco 2012 New Year Style

Why Mentorship is Dangerous

I’ve been thinking of this concept of mentorship. Through my young adult and professional life I have always been encouraged to seek out a mentor. And we seem to read about it a lot in career advice columns, blog posts, self-improvement literature, etc. And yes, I have had a handful of more wise, experienced individuals guide me through challenging and uncertain times, both men and women. Not sure I would call them mentors though.

Here’s the observation that I’ve made. It becomes dangerous when the mentor is treated as a hero. Then the mentorship experience becomes hero worship. This creates limitations on your self development. You fail to develop to your fullest potential because you become so focused on BEING your mentor. Do you really want to be a second-rate copy of your Mentor or a first-rate you? So here lies another meaning of “bcc”: do you want to become a Blind Carbon Copy?

Here’s a simplified analogy regarding the above. Steve Jobs died this past year in case you didn’t hear. He is probably the first person associated with that brand called Apple. There was a lot of attention focused on him after he died. Lots of people were sad. There were a lot of tributes written about him. He was worshipped and he continues to be worshipped. He has been deified.  So the question I’ve heard is “Who is the next Steve Jobs?” And it continues with “Who is the next Mark Zuckerberg?” Or “Who is the next Arianna Huffington?” Or “Who is the next Angela Merkl?” Or “Who is the next Margaret Thatcher?” (Huh? That was a curve ball, right?) Yes, I look forward to watching Meryl Streep portray the Reagan era politician in “The Iron Lady” which is coming soon to a theater near you. These questions are silly. Seeking out “The Next” whatever creates limitations and ceilings on inventing something different that can change the world in even a greater capacity. Sure, the aforementioned people have made a major impact on the world but that does not mean that they represent the absolute potential. Mentorship and learning from great leaders has value but be careful not to diminish your own ability to do amazing things. Do something different.

StartUp San Francisco: A Winning Tradition Based on Six Concepts

I discovered this article on Twitter during my morning news run. It was written by Boston entrepreneur Jason Evanish about his visit to the Valley. The Valley collectively refers to Silicon Valley and San Francisco. He believes that there are six reasons why the Valley is the Center of the Universe and these beliefs resonate with my recent experiences in the space.

Here are his observations:

(1) Openness (#payitforward): There is a “How can I help?” attitude. Most recently, I experienced this kind of generosity at AngelHackSF, the SF Ruby on Rails community, WomenWhoCode (led by the fearless Sasha Laundy) and Women 2.0 events.

(2) Optimism: Anyone with a vision is encouraged. The energy of the startup community is contagious and this fosters an entrepreneurial environment. At the beginning of the journey, it’s the subjective feeling of hope that prevails over a revenue model or the analytical razzle dazzle.

(3) Culture: The Valley is competitive but also collaborative. The Valley attracts a lot of talent because of this kind of culture. Talent wars abound so companies must provide a great work culture in addition to a fun environment. Mr. Evanish remarks how he was impressed with his visit to San Francisco based Twilio.

(4) Evangelism: People are happy with work and life in the Valley. They want you to move here now. Mr. Evanish believes that there are three hubs in the Valley ecosystem: San Francisco, Palo Alto and Mountain View. My observation is that San Francisco is THE hub of the Valley ecosystem where the Peninsula (Palo Alto, Mountain View and Menlo Park) and the South Bay (Santa Clara, San Jose and Cupertino) are also important and complete the ecosystem. Facebook is moving to Menlo Park and Apple is Cupertino – they are in the ecosystem. The Valley is a regional ecosystem which offers a phenomenal lifestyle. One can live in San Francisco, work in Mountain View, enjoy the culture/nightlife of San Francisco during off hours, catch a music concert or lecture in Berkeley, take off to Tahoe for skiing, run off to Napa or Sonoma up in the Wine Country, drive down the coast to Big Sur to be on the water, etc. etc. etc. (you get the picture). Plenty of things to do. All the time.

(5) Weather: The Bay Area climate is more favorable than the East Coast. This has a tremendous impact on lifestyle. Thus far, at every tech event I have been to I have always met a transplant who said they left the East Coast because of the weather. They were tired of shoveling snow, or tired of not being able to go out, or tired of being unsatisfied with their heating system in their apartment. They just got tired.

(6) Omnipresence: Mr. Evanish thinks it’s “cool” to see a familiar tech company’s logo on a billboard. These billboards are ubiquitious in San Francisco (the “City”) and the rest of the Valley. Walk or bike in the City, or drive along 101 or 280 and it’s just not possible to not see one of these gigantic manifestations of a Brand. This concept of omnipresence is also similar to how technology is so relevant in our lives.

At the end of the day the Valley has created a Winning Tradition because of the people who inhabit it. There is a diverse group of individuals from all over the world who converge here with hopes and dreams to build something great that will impact humanity. And even if the dream is not realized, the experience of engaging within a vibrant talented community and building life long relationships contributes to the richness of the Tradition. It’s the dynamic human element that matters.

This post was based on an article from OnStartups.com and tweeted by Dharmesh Shah (@dharmesh) the founder of @HubSpot. Discover #inboundmarketing.

The Big Lies in Online Dating

This is what I do at 1am in the morning. I troll Quora for interesting data. I discovered a string about public relations strategies for startup companies. The post suggested taking an OkCupid, OkTrends approach of “always keeping data fresh” since it recommends to constantly be coming up with new product, new features, new data after launch. OkCupid is an online dating site which produces a blog called OkTrends which reports on trends based on their users. And this data is always re-freshed with new insights, graphs and visuals. I personally don’t do online dating but most of my girlfriends do. And I respect that. It’s just another approach to dating. But here are two reasons why I personally prefer not to adopt that approach: (1) You cannot feel a person’s essence online (first impression/chemistry). So therefore it becomes a huge time-waster if you are interested in their online profile and then let down when you initially meet them in person. (2) People will embellish their personal profile when it comes to finding a date or a mate. Here is an OkTrends post based on user data which supports my second reason. So at the end of the day (at 1am in the morning), I would prefer mining for data than reading about some guy who says he is something he is not. Yes, people also lie in person; both men and women could lie regardless of whether they are looking online or offline but the first impression/chemistry qualifier is a more important starting point for me in this process of discovery. I would prefer to take the organic approach in the dating world and meet a live human being from the beginning. So call me a geek since I’d rather be trolling for data than trolling for dates online.