Growth5 Blog

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Have Any Extra Office Space You Aren't Using?

If your business has open offices, cubicles or unused conference rooms, iStopOver would like to rent them out for you to make your business some extra cash.

Meeting rooms at hotels can be expensive, working out of Starbucks might not be ideal -- iStopOver hopes to match business travelers with local businesses who have space they aren't using. From the iStopOver site:
iStopOver for Office Rentals specifically caters to direct rental of business space. iStopOver for Office Rentals is a website where you can rent excess business space for occasional use and benefit from all the conveniences of your own work facility without long term costs or commitments. For cubicles, desk space, offices, meeting rooms, boardrooms, presentation centers, warehouses, studios - even parking spots, iStopOver lists all types of available spaces.

Guests can use iStopOver to find a suitable place to work from. You don’t have to work out of coffee shops or expensive hotel boardrooms; start enjoying all the convenience of your own workspace, without long term costs and commitments. With iStopOver you can rent the type of space you need, whenever you need it.

Hosts can list on our website for FREE and pay a small fee only after your space has been rented. You provide the listing - we provide all the necessary tools and tips to get you started and market your listing.
It will take some time for iStopOver to ramp up their database with listings, but if done properly, this could be a great resource for finding affordable meeting and/or work space when you're traveling.

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Wednesday, June 24, 2009

An Apple Television

I think Apple should sell a flat screen tv that incorporates all of the features of Apple computers, Apple TV and the iPhone. The tv should come with a wireless keyboard/mouse and a lap tray with an optional stand included.

Here are six good reasons for this new flat screen from vc blog
1.Apple has proven they can charge a premium and do very well in commodity businesses.

2. The large iMacs and larger displays already have the aesthetics of a television. Apple would make a flat screen that people would be proud to hang on their wall.

3. Their current TV product, Apple TV, is a stand-alone set-top like product. This will likely change. Over the next two years, every TV manufacturer is adding an Internet menu stack similar to that of a cell-phone. Some vendors already have products on the market. By the end of 2010 every TV will have an Internet menu which means the stand-alone product will be increasingly difficult. Therefore, Apple may be forced to build an actual TV if they want to play in this market.

4. This is an annual $35 billion market. If Apple could get 10%, that would be $3.5 billion in sales per year.

5. The home run. Build it around iPhone ecosystem. Get your entire music library. Stocks, weather, photos – done. Pandora – done. YouTube – done. And thousands of other apps. Importantly, think about what this means for gaming. All the casual games for the iPhone are now on your TV. And of course, the iPhone itself (or an iPod Touch) becomes the remote, complete with accelerometer. Now you have a Wii competitor.

6. Distribution system already exists via the Apple stores.
Apple, what are you waiting for?

I would buy one, would you?

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Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Bicycle Nightmares

In the world of ultra-distance cycling, the ultimate challenge is RAAM -- The Race Across America. The race is happening now. Competitors are striving to cover more than 3,000 miles in less than 10 days, with some sleeping just an hour or so a day.

A new movie, "Bicycle Dreams" is an attempt to capture the super-human effort the race demands and the suffering -- and even death -- that comes with it. The movie has garnered several awards, including winning the Breckenridge Film Festival, but you're not likely to see it at the local theater. You can see a trailer here, also embedded below.

The movie, which some might suggest would be more appropriately named "Bicycle Nightmares," is an amazing study in energy management. The competitors very consciously (and sometimes literally unconsciously) tap every energy source: physical, intellectual, emotional, and spiritual.

It is both brutally inspirational and startlingly instructive. On one hand, it makes the challenges that we mere mortals face seem almost trivial by comparison. On the other hand, as we watch the competitors barter their sanity, money, health and even lives for an insignificant prize, it forces us to ask ourselves the same question the producers repeatedly ask the racers: "Why?"

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Monday, June 22, 2009

Space Solar: 24 Hours A Day

Solaren Corp, a solar power start-up, has convinced California's Pacific, Gas & Electric to buy 200 megawatts of electricity when it is up and running in 2016. And by up, they mean way up... space.

Solaren's plan is to position mile(s)-wide stationary solar power satellites thousands of miles above the earth, to collect sunlight 24 hours a day with no cloud interference.

The sun's rays would be converted to radio waves beamed to receiving stations on the ground and converted to electricity. The radio beam would be spread over a wide enough area as to not be dangerous to people, airplanes or wildlife. They expect the project will cost US$2 billion.

Solaren CEO Gary Spirnak said, "While a system of this scale and exact configuration has not been built, the underlying technology is very mature and is based on communications satellite technology."

Japan's Space Agency, JAXA, has also begun testing a space-based solar array as well. They plan to launch an array of satellites that would provide enough solar energy to power approximately half a million homes.


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Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Create Sections of YouTube Videos With TubeChop

I recently discovered TubeChop -- an online app that allows you to enter the url of any YouTube video and splice it into a smaller piece that then filters thru the TubeChop site for you to link to or embed.

By using this site, you will no longer have to pass along email links to 60 minute videos and recommend the recipient check out 6:48; 25:19 & 48:05. You can quickly splice the video and pull the sections you want to pass along.

For example, one of my favorite parts of Steve Jobs' 2005 Commencement Address at Stanford is when he talked about how dropping out of college helped the world get better typography on their personal computers. The section of the speech is about how you can't connect the dots of your life looking forward, but only by looking back. "You have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.... believing that the dots will connect down the road will give you the confidence to follow your heart even when it leads you off the well worn path."

The full speech is over 15 minutes, by using TubeChop, I've been able to splice out the three minute section of Jobs' speech referenced above. You can watch it here, or via the embedded clip below.

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Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Google Wave

Have you been following the hype over Google Wave? Google hasn't released Wave yet, but since it was revealed at the Google Developer Conference it's been generating quite a bit of buzz.

What is it?

From the official Google Blog:
A "wave" is equal parts conversation and document, where people can communicate and work together with richly formatted text, photos, videos, maps, and more.
How does it work?
In Google Wave you create a wave and add people to it. Everyone on your wave can use richly formatted text, photos, gadgets, and even feeds from other sources on the web. They can insert a reply or edit the wave directly. It's concurrent rich-text editing, where you see on your screen nearly instantly what your fellow collaborators are typing in your wave. That means Google Wave is just as well suited for quick messages as for persistent content — it allows for both collaboration and communication. You can also use "playback" to rewind the wave and see how it evolved.
What Google has done here is similar to what Marc Andreessen did with social networks. Instead of trying to create the "best" social networking site, Andreessen created Ning, a platform all social networks can use.

Google is hoping Wave will be the conduit for which all social activity travels - a potential one log-in solution. Right now with most social networks, your content is walled off from the rest of the web unless they join the social network you are using to get full access. With Wave, your information will be available at all times to anyone you give permission to regardless of what network they are using.

Since Wave is open source it will be interesting to see how the tool evolves as developers create different uses for it.

If you don't have time to check out the full 80 minute preview Google has put out here, you can check out short clips here covering the following Wave features:
-Inline Replies
-As-You-Type Live Updates Over the Internet Between Users
-Wave Revision Playback
-Private Replies
-Embed Waves into Web Pages
-Live Collaboration on a Single Wave
-Live Updating Search Results
-Contextual Spellcheck
Related: Fast Company provides five reasons to be terrified of Wave here.

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Friday, June 12, 2009

You Have To Own It

After hours last night I found out that we had inadvertently contributed to a 24-hour delay on a project that couldn't afford a ten-minute delay. I got in my car and headed to the client in NY. One of our key people on the project left Baltimore about the same time on the train to NY. We were in front of the client early this morning.
"Client, we messed this up. It's our fault. I'm sorry. We never wanted to put you in this position, and I feel terribly about that. We're here to crank away on this with you and we hope to be back on track by the end of the day."
Thankfully, we were able to make a difference and the project seems to be back on track. The other vendors involved did a great job stepping up too. If we weren't under an NDA I'd love to give them credit here.

The last 20 hours have been tough, but a great reminder: You Have To Own It. We've all seen vendors over the years pointing fingers at each other and wasting time and energy making their case as to why it wasn't their fault. We don't want to be that kind of company. We owned up to our mistake immediately, took action instantly, empathized with our client, rolled up our sleeves side-by-side with them and fixed it.

When you tell clients you're going to partner with them you have to mean it and own that responsibility. Their projects are our projects. We messed up, that's not good, but we are going to learn from it and be better because of it.

I am really proud of how our team responded. Turns out the client was too.


Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Prepping For a First Meeting With a VC

This blog post is intended to help you be better prepared for pitching to a vc, or making a sales pitch to anyone.

Brad Feld of Foundry Group explains how he wants you to prepare for a meeting with him here. Great advice for entrepreneur "pitch" meetings (or a sales pitch for the salespeople out there). The highlights:

1. Research the vc firm you are pitching to. It's absolutely imperative that you know what kind of firms the vc you're pitching to invest in. What are some of their recent deals. How can you show the person you're meeting with immediately that you get what they do, that should be your research goal.

2. Figure out one thing you want to communicate during the meeting. Get to the point quickly:
"My firm has developed voice recognition software for the iPhone so the user can dictate emails, text and send them without touching the phone. I'm meeting with you today because I would like you to partner with us by investing in our company and sitting on our board."
Using this example, what NOT TO DO would be to spend the first 15 minutes of the 30 minute meeting throwing out all sorts of iPhone statistics and voice data points and then 'wowing' your audience with your product. People watch movies, tv, they think a build up is necessary. Nope, not in these type of meetings. Lead with it, right up front.

3. Bring one thing to the meeting your audience can learn from. Some new data that relates to your product that is relevant to the types of companies they invest in. Even if the vc knew about it already, it shows that you are paying attention to what's important to them. I'm often amazed at how little entrepreneurs pay attention to their own space. It shows.

4. Be cognizant of time. Verify how much time you have for the meeting up front, and stick to it. Even if it's clear the meeting is going great and the vc just asked you a nine-part question, if you're coming up on the meeting deadline, ask if you can go over the pre-determined meeting length.

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Tuesday, June 9, 2009

iPhone 3GS

The iPhone 3GS is out. $199 for the 16GB; $299 for 32 GB (with a 2-year contract). Apple has reduced the price of the now ancient iPhone 3G (8 GB) to $99. You can compare the features of the new vs. old here.

What's new with the 3GS? Apple has posted an excellent 13 minute Guided Tour here. The highlights:
  • cut, copy, paste
  • MMS; share pictures, video and more
  • improved performance/more responsive; web pages render faster, easier/faster switching between apps
  • longer battery life
  • camera: 3 megapixels with autofocus
  • video: shoot, edit, share on the fly
  • voice control: names in address book, or just say the phone number, controls iPod as well
  • digital compass: can orient maps to the direction you're heading
  • cut, copy & paste text and photos within apps or across apps, shake to undo
  • voice memos: record meetings, class lectures, notes to yourself; share vs. email, MMS or sync to your computer
  • improved search in apps
  • more and more apps available via the apps store
The features that make me ponder buying a new iPhone are the updated camera (I take a lot of pictures with my iPhone), and the video functionality. If it had voice to email/text, I would order it today.

If any of the features listed here are a "must have" for you -- order now -- the 3GS will arrive at your door on June 19th.

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Thursday, June 4, 2009

Are You A Self-Sabotager?

According to this article from Entrepreneur magazine, the reason why we react negatively to new ideas is because of our ancestors. They would step out of their cave on high alert and assess the level of danger as they scanned the horizon. This feature of the brain is called "danger surfing" and it saved our ancestors lives.

Great for our ancestors, thanks for staying alive, but our genetic predisposition for danger suffering could be holding us back. We danger surf because we think we are saving ourselves or other people from themselves. "That's the dumbest business idea I've ever heard, it will fail miserably and I will lose money. Next!" or "That will never work, don't waste your time."

It's one of the reasons I try to get entrepreneurs to approach investors conversationally and get the investors talking about the idea early on. If you just "pitch" to investors for 15 minutes straight without letting them build on the idea, oftentimes all they are thinking about is poking holes in your idea/presentation as to why it won't work. They will gladly fill you in on the details when your 15 minutes are up because they want to save you from yourself. Or because they like to hear themselves talk, probably a little bit of both.

Here are some decent tips from the article to help us avoid the self-sabotage that danger surfing causes:
1. “Yes and...” Do what improv actors do; play the “yes and…” game. Instead of looking for the flaws, be additive to the idea. The next time someone comes to you with an idea, no matter how half-baked, put your “but” out to pasture and expand on the idea. Not only will this be collaborative and lead to more creativity, it will also show you what an attractor behavior is like.

2. Create and evaluate separately. The formation of ideas and the evaluation of them are two entirely different brain processes. Let’s say you want to start a new venture, so you pull together your best business whiz pals in a meeting to help you with the idea. You’ll want to spring for two pizza-and-beer parties. One is to collect every whacked-out idea they can come up with in relation to your idea--no evaluation of the ideas, the brain will shut down creativity if you do. The second meeting is to evaluate and prioritize. Allow at least a week in between formation and evaluation so the brain can incubate. At the end of the first meeting, ask everyone to be thinking about the best possible combinations of ideas around your venture.

3. Count to ten. It takes approximately six seconds from the time a negative emotion is felt (i.e., disgust or disdain) and the dissipation of the hormones that make you want to blurt out a nasty remark. Your mom was right--count to ten before you speak. Let the visceral feelings die down, then speak. And remember to be additive.

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Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Smart & Creative Customer Service: Netflix

If you're Netflix and you want to get people watching your movies online, the email below is what you do if you know there was a disruption of your service. Sometimes it's enough to just acknowledge you messed up, as opposed to referring your customers to the legal mumbo jumbo of the service agreement about "up time" as many companies do. Throwing in a small discount is the icing on the cake of this apology / brand-building / customer service / email Netflix sent to their customers about the issue. Refreshing.

From Signal vs. Noise:

Ian Hall writes: “Last night I was passively watching (or more listening than anything) to Eco-Trip with my daughter while we fixed dinner. All of a sudden the sound gets all garbled. I figure the encoding is off and think nothing of it until this morning I receive the following email. Now THAT is customer service. Netflix knew I might be upset (or at least have noticed) the interruption and so, proactively, they allowed me to request a credit for a small amount of my bill. Now while 3% of my bill isn’t really going to add up, it makes me FEEL 100x better. And here I am gurgling over my feelings and the attention Netflix pays to their customers.”

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Monday, June 1, 2009

Run, Don't Walk or Stand Still

During the Great Depression my grandfather would stand outside a railroad construction office like the one pictured to the right and hope to be picked for that day's work. A slender high school graduate, his routine over the next month was consistent, get to the office early, wait, rejection, walk home.

Then one hot summer day the regular young man who fetched water for the workers didn't show up. My grandfather got his shot. He was shown the pond that he was to haul the buckets of water from. He dunked the first bucket and felt the stagnant warm water. This would not do. Why would they ask someone back who delivered disgusting warm water.

He knew of a stream in the area and decided to run full speed to it. The water was cold. He sprinted back as fast as he could and delivered two partially filled buckets. The workers were thrilled with the clean cold water. Back and forth he went.

The next morning when the supervisor began his selections, he pointed to my grandfather and said, "we need him." The first person chosen. Shortly thereafter he was full-time.

We've written before about being aggressive and not standing still during these difficult times. Do a little research, come up with differentiable solutions for your clients and start running.

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Is It Brain Surgery?

Marketing: it's not brain surgery. Or is it?

The fundamental purpose of marketing is to change people's minds. When you do that, you literally rewire the synapses inside their brains.

Okay, you don't use a scalpel or a laser, but you use something just as powerful: an idea. Only a few of us will go under the knife for brain surgery, but all of us have been rewired by the doctors of Madison Avenue and their esteemed colleagues in the media.

Do you feel thirsty when you see the Coke logo? Do you drive a little faster when the Porsche passes you? Do you fight the urge to say "super size me"?

Who put THAT stuff in your head?