I just spent last week at CES in Las Vegas and had an absolutely amazing time. This years trip to CES was a little different as I had access to Publicis Groupe events and private parties. Needless to say, I’m just now recovering from the parties!
Here are some of the highlights from CES for me.
- Qualcomm’s Gimbal Platform – This is a context awareness platform using beacon technology as well as mobile app to create pretty much any awareness situation you can think of.
- Cisco Retail Solutions – Cisco had some amazing concepts showing how they could connect the entire retail experience with beacon’s, tracking camera’s, and some pretty amazing store level and executive analytic’s (user foot track patterns, inventory, transactions, etc.). They had partnered with Aero Scout for the beacon technology.
- Street Line – Pretty cool stuff when it comes to parking and other data for urban areas. Saw I nice demo with them and Cisco.
- Google Fiber – I was lucky enough to attend a private meeting with Google to learn more about new products in the market. Outside of getting a nice pair of Google glasses, one of the best road maps I saw was for Google Fiber. Alot of us are familiar with Google Fiber, so I won’t bore you with the details, checkout the site. What’s amazing is the approach Google is taking to dominate the Fiber network not only in the US, but in other countries that have poor infrastructure or countries that have a monopoly (higher prices as a result). If you don’t own Google stock, you should, this one division will dominate the world in 5 years and give Google a diversified portfolio outside of just search. Some interesting terminologies I learned from Google; they call neighborhoods “Fiber Hoods”, their retail stores are called “Fiber Space”. The Google VP in-charge (Milo Medin) of the division was telling me that he has seen credit ratings for cities increase because of Google Fiber (installed city), he also told me that if a house in a Fiber Hood signs up for Google Fiber (free internet), that account stays with the house, so if you sell the house the new owner gets Google Fiber as well, this helps home values and rental values. Not to mention, a city that helps bring in Google Fiber (make it easy for Google in install) gets free fiber to schools, libraries, etc. Milo was clear to point out that he only goes to cities that make it easy for him, it doesn’t matter about the size of the city. Amazing stuff from Google, including how they roll out and install a Fiber Hood. Continue reading
Over the last 12 to 16 months I per-ordered a number of products and have received them. In general I’ve been really happy with what I got. Pre-ordering is becoming more common, but I’d say that I’d never really done it until I went to CES a few years ago and got excited about specific products I saw. What’s accelerated this even more is sites like Kick Starter and others that have introduced new products/ideas and built confidence in purchasing products pre-release/pre-review.
Here are my top 3 pre-order products I’ve received:
- Nest – Love it and works perfectly in my house.
- DropCam – I have 2 of these in my house and have given them out as gifts.
- Leap Motion – This has been OK, it’s not delivered on the wow for me, but I enjoy using it as entertainment.
Here are my My current pre-orders:
- Coin – I’m really excited about this card. I hate all the cards I carry in my wallet. Hoping into get this summer 2014.
- Airo - Man, this is cool, I’m not into fitness, but know what my body is consuming and tracking this all to help me live well simplifies how I track this and why I won’t do this today. Hoping to get this in fall 2014.
- Tesla Model X – I’ve been excited about this SUV. I put in my pre-order in early 2012. This is a big purchase item for a pre-order that I haven’t seen/touched. I can’t wait. Hoping to get this in early 2014, we’ll see.
- August – I loved the design and simplicity of this home lock system. Lots of new products coming out, I’m hoping this one is the winner and it simplifies life again. Hoping to get this in early 2014.
What else should I consider?
I never thought I’d go back to school, yet I just took the crazy, and somewhat unplanned, leap and enrolled at Georgia State University, Robin College of Business to get my Executive MBA. Many of my friends, fellow entrepreneurs, and investors questioned why I was doing this. It’s a fair question.
I’m 37 years old, co-founded an agency, successfully sold two agencies, and have No Limit Ventures, LLC as an investment vehicle for start-ups I believe in. Is an EMBA valuable for someone like me or should my time, effort, and money go towards something else? Another fair question.
Here is why I decided to get an EMBA.
- I know I can do more in life/work.
- I really only know one industry very well and wanted to broaden my knowledge.
- I only know what I know, and I don’t know what I’ve never been exposed to.
- I want to validate what I know and improve on it if I can.
- I need to better understand and speak the international language of business, accounting and finance.
- I want to be exposed to other types of thinkers (people from other industries, company sizes, career situations, etc.)
- I have context I can apply in classes and discover alternate methods of decision making and learn even more from my past mistakes.
- I’m playing to win!
The EMBA I’m doing has a strong focus on global business and accounting. It will take 17 months and is based in the Buckhead campus. So far I’ve enjoyed every moment of the program and I’m learning more than I’d ever imagined. Most importantly, I’m discovering my passions again!
A special thank you to Marc Kagan, my friend that introduced me to program and gave me the inside track. Ken Bernhardt, my mentor who logically helped me make this decision. And finally and most importantly my wife, Tovah Choudhury who’s encouraged me and supported this decision knowing I’ll have less time to devote to our family (oh and we are having our second child in November).
Thank you all for the support and encouragement. This is the right decision for me, I hope it helps some of you make similar decisions.
My friend Jeff Hilimire and my first business partner is leaving the roots of the company we co-founded some 14 years and 10 months ago today. It’s a sad moment for me (and him) as we’ve shared a journey and this is the first time in our professional careers we’ll be apart. We have been close friends from the day we met 17 years ago and I know we’ll always be close friends regardless of our professional lives.
I met Jeff in August 1996 when I was an international exchange student at UNC in Charlotte, NC. Jeff was my roommate and we quickly became friends. At the time Jeff was a straight A student, great at math, tennis, computers, and a master of Tetris (really, the guy is bad-ass at Tetris). He was dating his high school sweet heart, Emily (his wife and the rock now behind him), and was the oldest brother to sisters that all looked up to him. His family took me in as another member of the family, especially his mum who welcomed me into a country I knew little about. Jeff’s commitment to his family has never waivered, and I’d say it’s been a model for a lot of us who know him and his family well.
Jeff and I had very different social lives (I think he’d agree), but one thing that bonded us was our love of the internet and the uncharted possibilities for a couple of guys who didn’t know any better. To observe us back then, we were unlikely friends or business partners; in fact, I’m not sure either of us ever considered working together. Yet, fate and pure luck brought us together a few years later and we never looked back. Continue reading
Five years and four months after selling my first agency, Spunlogic, to Halyard Capital, Jeff Hilimire, Raghu Kakarala, and I just helped sell Engauge to Publicis Groupe (Press Release). The past five years have been a learning journey for me and I’m a better entrepreneur and executive because of my experience with Engauge. It’s an exciting time for both Engauge and Moxie Interactive; this combination creates a powerhouse in the Southeast that we’ve not seen since the .com days of the early 2000′s. I look forward to the journey ahead.
When I think back to my first agency, Spunlogic, (co-founded with Jeff Hilimire), it’s amazing how much I didn’t know about agencies in general, M&A, holding companies, operations, etc. Thinking back I’m amazed we grew Spunlogic to 75 people and sold it in 2008. I’ve always said we were successful then because of what we didn’t know as opposed to what we did know. Back then we knew how to build value for clients, but I’m not sure we knew how to build value for the agency or investors, at least not purposefully or strategically. Halyard and Engauge have taught me about the latter (creating value for the agency and shareholders) and I’m grateful for the exposure.
Here are some quick highlights of the last 5 years with Engauge:
- I got to take a 4 month sabbatical and travel around the world. Not many companies would let you do that.
- I managed and grew our digital division as Managing Director, built out a bad-ass office and doubled the revenues and head count (140 people) of the Atlanta office.
- I merged the three legacy agencies (4 offices) and built new operational systems and processes.
- Most importantly, I had the privilege to work with amazing people that I’ve learned so much from. Thank you all for the support and friendship.
As my journey continues, I’m thankful for all I’ve learned and I’m excited for what the future has in store for me.
So Jeff Hilimire and now Donovan Panone have challenged me to write about my five truths. I think Drew Hawkins originally challenged Jeff, so the I’m next in line. I hope this is the first and last blog challenge from these guys. So here are my five:
Truth #1 – I have no regrets.
I’ve certainly made bad decisions, wrong choices and done some pretty stupid things. However each mistake has taught me something new or given me a new appreciation of the situation. I’m a better person as a result of my choices and therefore have no regrets .
Truth #2 – I’m a bad writer and reader.
I’ve always been a bad writer, and it doesn’t help that English was the third language I learned. Hopefully I make a few folks laugh when they read my stuff. Also, reading bores me and I often find myself unfocused or falling asleep. It’s not that I don’t want to get better or haven’t tried new techniques; I just don’t enjoy it and avoid reading unless I have to. Yes- bring on audio books and video.
Truth #3 – I get obsessed solving a problem.
When I’m faced with a challenge, I can’t see the forest through the trees. This can be a good thing at times as I can normally find a solution to most things and love doing it. The bad thing is that I get totally obsessed to the point of diminishing returns. If I’m focused on a problem, I’ll stay up all night and the next day; if someone is talking to me about something else I’ll zone it out. You can’t pull me off the project until I’ve solved it.
My friend and old business partner, Jeff Hilimire, recently sent me an article about Pave, the crowdfunding platform for investing in people. Pave’s approach differs from crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter that focus on the idea or product where you fund the startup and get ownership of the product or similar. Alternatively, Pave allows you to invest in an individual and you get a share of their salary in the future (regardless of the company they work at or start-up they are involved with).
Pave’s approach of investing in the individual certainly resonates with me. Every start-up I’ve invested in has been mainly because of the people (founders, key employees, etc.) as opposed to the idea/product. Don’t get me wrong, the idea/product matters, but not as much as the people leading the effort that are on the ground day and night. You can have a great idea, but it still takes a special type of person to make a start-up successful. So my rule over the years has been to first make sure I like and believe in the people involved before I look at the idea/product in depth.
As I perused Pave to possibly find individuals to invest in, I came across an issue that’s put me off doing anything with Pave or similar crowdfunding platforms. Although some of the folks where inspirational, everyone seemed so packaged up and put together. I almost felt like I was shopping at Tiffany’s for expensive, perfectly boxed up jewelry. A lot of the individuals looked great, knew what to say, how to act, and were all shining stars in their own right, but I came to the conclusion that these folks would do great in life regardless of my money or involvement. They’ve generated enough interest on sites like Pave and have already learned how to market themselves. I discovered I am more interested in the diamond in the rough; someone who has all the potential but hasn’t been discovered (at least not in a shop I can browse in with the rest of the world). I have more fun, and find more value, meeting and discovering people the old fashion way, and generating my own value as a result of what I see in the individuals I come across through my life.
Does anyone share my point of view or disagree?
Engauge’s DIG group asked a few of us to define “Innovation” on the fly. I came up with “Innovation is discovering the unknown when you’re looking for it”. The beer in my hand may have helped, but I think there is something to be said about “discovering the unknown when your looking for it“.
Everyone works differently of course, but based on how I work best, here are 5 tips to help you uncover what you’re looking for.
- Sitting in the same room for 10 hours straight will only water down your ideas and spin you in loops. So, start by changing up your physical environment when developing concepts and ideas. A 30 minute walk outside, or going to a new coffee shop for an hour can help keep you sharp and focused.
- Write down the problems, gaps, opportunities of anything that comes into mind. It doesn’t have to be related to the area your focusing on and don’t try to solve anything yet. Revisiting this list will help you uncover new ways of looking at the original problem or help you find common patterns with other problems that might spurn a new innovation.
- Look to nature as inspiration for possible solutions. Mother nature is the King-Kong of innovation; she’s been able to continually adapt and innovate over millions of years and continues to today. We have access to information that tells this story and see what was changed and why. You’ll be surprised what you’ll find when you look at it from mother nature’s lens. Here is a somewhat related example from TED speaker Michael Pawlyn.
I had a fun meeting with three guys from a start-up I’m looking at investing in; it made me re-live my own start-up days and I realized I’m envious of their road ahead. One of the guys asked me how to establish a culture in a start-up. My answer was, “it depends on the size of your start-up and what stage you are in”, which of course led into a discussion of what the start-up stages are. Here is how I see the stages unfolding – what are your thoughts? I’d like to know other view points.
1 to 8 employees
The founders and the first employees ARE the culture. There is no separation. You don’t have to go out of your way to create/establish a culture, it’s already in the DNA of the company your building just by the nature of who you are, so don’t over think it.
In the early stages everyone is wearing any and every hat. If you need to figure something out, one of you will end up learning whatever it is at 3am and implementing it the best you can the next day. You’ll find that work and social lives combine, your co-founders/employees are best friends, a family, and you have each others’ backs. The start-up consumes every ounce of effort and excitement so nothing else maters. This is your life and you love it. Most of the time you don’t have a clue what you’re really doing but that’s what’s so exciting; if it doesn’t feel that way, you are over thinking it and haven’t let go of your old life. Continue reading
I found myself referencing the term “Sought After” to a start-up I’m advising; I was trying to give them a good example of an essence or driving focus for a start-up or growing company to strive to. A rallying point that helps provide direction regardless of the current marketing conditions, trends, or day to day challenges.
The term “Sought After” was used by Spunlogic (agency I co-founded and sold several years ago) and was the driving focus of the agency as I think back. Jeff Hilimire (Co-founder at Spunlogic with me), Raghu Kakarala, Danny Davis, and I, really pushed this essence into the culture of the agency and what we aspired to be. We all believed and aspired to become a sought after agency. This was also brought into Engauge and I’m sure we’ll all continue using “Sought After” in future enterprises.
So you are probably wondering what the hell “Sought After” means. For me, the term can be applied to a number categories in a start-up or growing company. Here are some examples. Continue reading
I started off on a Mac when I was 15 (1991) and fell in love with Apple’s GUI and all that was Apple. I started designing and experimenting with my Apple and always felt like a trend setter with my Mac. When I started my company, Spunlogic, in 1998, I traveled around the world designing websites on my MacBook Pro; unfortunately, what I was designing and coding always looked different on a PC (Browser hell back in the day). Anyway my co-founder and I decided to switch the agency to PC’s (January 2000), mainly because they where cheaper and it simplified things when designing and developing as a team back then.
I got used to a PC and continued using one and forgot the days of Apple for several years. During that period Apple also lost it’s mojo, at least in my opinion. Continue reading
Published on February 24th, MobileMarketer.com
Distressed inventory in the travel business is the unsold hotel rooms and airplane seats that become available at the last minute on travel Web sites at fire-sale prices.
But a hotel manager in the near future could be relying on a proximity-based bidding network to convert a cancellation into a booking.
Today, travel brands typically attract consumers to peruse these bargain-priced goodies by dumping them on a travel portal – hotwire.com, priceline.com, Orbitz – or by sending promotional emails and text alerts to email addresses and mobile phones.
Yet a proximity-based marketing network could advertise discounted rooms to travelers driving along the interstate when they are just miles from the property. Room offers could be dispatched to car navigation systems and trigger an alert on the screen. Continue reading
I recently wrote a guest column for MobileMarketer.com. The topic was making sure that SMS messages comply with carrier rules – something that seems straightforward â€¦ however, it’s anything but. This topic is definitely something I think our blog readers will find interesting, so you’ll find the article below.
Also, make sure to the check out MobileMarketer.com – it’s a terrific resource for mobile marketing, media and commerce.
Ensure SMS messages comply with carrier rules Continue reading
Amy Griswold and I just attended the sixth annual SilverPOP conference at Stone Mountain last week (05/13/2008). Like most vendor-customer conferences, I’m often somewhat skeptical about what I’m going to learn about email marketing in general. Most of the time, I attend these conferences to better understand new features that are being released, and to gauge their product road map so we can align the agency to take advantage of the tool in the future.
As we listened to the Keynote speaker, Terry Jones (Founder of Travelocity.com and chairman of Kayak.com), I was pleased to hear his insights on his management style and trends he see’s in marketing in general. What I wasn’t expecting was a very simple tactic he mentioned that I’d never really considered, but made a lot of sense.
Terry termed this “Snooze Alarm” for your email campaigns. Essentially, we all use some level of frequency control on campaigns, as well as behavioral triggers to determine when we market to customers via email. Continue reading