Sunday, May 19, 2019

It's the Techonomy, Stupid!

I love New York. I also love business and technology. I feel that business, technology and our global society are deeply connected.

This past week, NYDLA helped to promote the fourth annual Techonomy NYC conference. At the risk of being overly dramatic with a sincere compliment: if  I was unemployed and if I was looking for a job, I would want to work at Techonomy. For now, I shall have to settle with helping them to spread their vision: Technology + Economy = Techonomy  

The theme of the Techonomy conference was "Collaborating for Responsible Growth" and the timing could not be any better. I believe that a technological future can work for everyone, but we all need to work together to make this happen. I would be hard pressed to think of an organization or community that is better aligned with the purpose and mission of the NYDLA.

Here are just some of the session topics that were covered over two amazing days in The Big Apple:

Technologies of Togetherness * Creating an Inclusive Tech Industry * Partnering for Good * Hacking a More Secure Society * Tech Tools for Public Servants * Can Anyone Beat Amazon? * Sustainable Development Goals * The Internet Civil War * Internet of Things * The Food Industry * Internet & Blockchain * Cybersecurity * The New Technologies of Politics * Ethical Engineers * Big Data * AI * Wellness * US - China Battle Over Tech * Agile Enterprise * Food Delivery and Tech * Women and Tech * Podcasts *Telemedicine

The people behind Techonomy believe that technology must be a tool for progress. But this requires both our attention and intention. Sadly too often, the technology that we create fails society. Technological, business and economic challenges are impossible to separate.

Since 1983 I have watched distance learning morph into DIGITAL learning, which today has simply become DIGITAL LIVING. And so, I have seen the "D and the L" in NYDLA morph from DISTANCE to DIGITAL and from LEARNING to LIVING.

To be successful in the new global economy, you must become a "Techonomist" and you must embrace lifelong learning. The path to a sustainable and healthy economy is through knowledge + technology + talent. It is technology that will allow (all of us) to find the solutions that we need. And boy, do we need solutions and fast. 

From David Kirkpatrick, Editor-in-Chief of Techonomy: "Will tech destroy the planet? Or can tech save the planet? We have a crisis of industry behavior, of public confidence, and of policy. As a longtime chronic optimist, with the tools of tech employed with focus and good intention, there is hope of spreading prosperity."

I too, am an optimist. Born in 1960, I watched NASA put men on the moon. I watched DISNEY give birth to Walt Disney World and EPCOT (Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow). As of April 2019, 56.1% of the world's population has internet access. This is up from 0.4% in 1995.

This blog is possible because of technology. Amazon. Uber. Apple. Google. Podcasts, TED.com talks, NETFLIX documentaries. Folks, we are all techonomists. What will the future hold? Will tech save or destroy our planet?

The best news from spending two days at Techonomy NYC: we get to decide our future.

All of us are techonomists and we are all in this together. I vote for SAVE.










Sunday, May 12, 2019

Manage Like a Mother

My friend Lee Cockerell once said on his podcast that you should "Manage like a Mother" and it stuck with me. I love leadership quotes.

I feel that the single most important leadership skill is the ability to determine what is the most important thing.

Managers focus on doing things right - they are into efficiency. Leaders focus on doing the right things - they concern themselves with effectiveness. Sometimes they overlap, but Management and Leadership are not the same thing.

When I was growing up, my Mom ran the household. She would learn how to prioritize. She had the ability to separate what was the most important thing, from what was not important. And once she knew what was important, she put all of her focus and energy into what she determined was essential and best for the family. [ Mom would never quit. ]

Mom was very good at processing new information as it came in. Mom knew that as things change, plans change and that our priorities needed to change accordingly. [ Like discovering a sick child the night before leaving for the big family vacation. ]

Mom would always encourage healthy habits for myself and my sister. She would give us praise when it was warranted and she would criticize our behavior when needed. But she would only criticize in private. And the criticism would always be constructive. [ Praise in public, criticize in private.]

Mom would allow us to make mistakes. We would learn that actions have consequences, and that we needed to take ownership of our actions. [ Don't lie to Mom. She would always find out. ]

Mom would make the tough calls from time to time. Ultimately, it was Mom's call as to what would be the best for the family. Over time, it became evident that Mom was (almost) always right.

At this point in my life (and my business career) I see how CEO and MOM can mean the same thing. Moms demand action when action is needed. Moms fully pour their heart and their entire being into their family. Moms help the family to be its best, creating a positive vision of what can be. Moms hold their children to a higher standard. Moms expect honesty and accountability from their children. And Moms are always there for their children, no matter what.

Here is something cool. Google "Leadership Quotes" and you will find thousands. Now, replace the word "Leadership" or "Leaders" with the word Motherhood and Mother.

Here is an example:

"A good objective of leadership (Motherhood) is to help those who are doing poorly to do well and to help those who are doing well to do even better." ~ Jim Rohn

And one more:

"Leaders (Mothers) instill in their people (family) a hope for success and a belief in themselves. Positive leaders (Mothers) empower people (family) to accomplish their goals." ~ Unknown

Last one:

"The pessimist complains about the wind. The optimist expects it to change. The leader (Mother) adjusts the sails."  ~ John Maxwell


Happy Mothers Day to all the Leaders and Managers out there....... ESPECIALLY to all the Momprenuers in the world - the female business owners who are actively balancing the role of a Mom and the role of an Entrepreneur.

My Mom

Sunday, May 5, 2019

Thank you for your service

Thank you for your service. Now get into the trash (or recycling) pile. 

OK, so my wife and I were testing out the Marie Kondo tidying methods this weekend. We hit the basement armed with trash bags, gloves, and my smartphone. Why the smartphone you ask? Because before I threw something away, before trashing something that was a memory from the past, I took a picture. Believe it or not, just the act of taking a picture helped to speed up the process. It was like we were "thanking each individual item" for serving its purpose before getting rid of it. More on this later.

Did you Ojo? Back in around 2005 we sold the Ojo video phones and service. I just found around a dozen Ojo phones in the basement, unopened, and still in the box.

Yes there was Skype, but Ojo was a dedicated, always ready two-way video connection. It also looked very cool on your desk. Two phones cost $1,600 plus around $9.95 per month, per phone. I see that you can (still) find Ojo phones online at Amazon and such, for around $55.

Ojo did not make it. The devices were too expensive, and the service was too limited. Fast forward to 2019: we have Facebook Portal. Dedicated phones, so that if you can't be there, you feel like you are there. Unlike the video calling you're used to (Skype, Zoom, etc.) Portal has a Smart Camera that will follow your voice as you move around the room.

When Facebook's smart display was released last year, it received mixed reviews. But now - we have the privacy and personal data controversies that have recently surrounded Facebook. Having an always-listening microphone and always-watching camera, after a year of privacy scandals, I'm not buying it. At $498 for two of the Portal "Plus" it seems like they might be going down the same road as Ojo. Would the Facebook Portal bring you joy?

Sometimes things change, and sometimes the change is within you. I remember when Newton's Telecom Dictionary was a must-have for anyone in the telecom or technology space. And every year, I would gladly pay good money for the latest version of that paperback book. I just said "thank you for your service" for the 16th version, and threw it into the throw out bin. I also see that you can buy the 31st "Updated and Expanded Version" of the paperback book online for around $25. But now I have poked around the Internet to find www.HarryNewton.com and www.TechnologyInvestor.com and so I hope that Harry Newton is still doing well. I just pinged him on LinkedIn. If he is still around, I will thank Harry for his service - and I'll buy his new book. Harry Newton has given me joy over the years, and it looks like he might have lots more joy to give.


I also found the 2008 Jenne.com catalog in the basement. I find it amusing that the folks from NYDLA leadership had lunch in NYC last week with the folks from Jenne. And I find it even more amusing that you can access their 774 page products and services "book" online. Do they still mail this thing? I hope they are not still killing trees. I thanked the 2008 Jenne catalog for its service - and I threw it in the recycling bin. But I also thanked the guys from Jenne for our most excellent lunch meeting (again) as I will send them the link to this blog. Working with Jenne gives me joy, and this has been the case for over 25 years.

While poking around in the basement I also found all of our paperwork on the patent that we applied for: distance learning.

Back in 2006 (thanks to our Ojo experience) we thought that we were onto something - a way to take "off the shelf" technologies and create something magical. Guess what - we were right! Guess what else: it only pays to pursue and own a patent (on anything) if you have the means to defend and protect said patent. Otherwise the only people making any money are the patent lawyers. Lessons learned. Marie Kondo would be proud, as I thanked our technology patent (legal documents) for its service. It's all now in the trash, but first - I took pictures. Ah yes - mistakes are tuition. But the lessons learned, even the expensive ones, have given me joy over the years.

So was the Ojo phone too early? Will the new Facebook Portal become a hit, or will it find the same fate as Ojo? Will the issues of privacy and security kill it before it gets off the ground? And what about the voice only services like Amazon Alexa and Apple Siri? It will be interesting to see how privacy issues and data ownership issues all play out. For now, today: Alexa and Siri do not give me joy.

OK, back to Marie Kondo. The KonMari method is based on getting rid of physical items that do not bring joy into your life. But the method makes you pause and reflect on the things that did (and still do) bring you joy.

Sometimes we need to get rid of the good to make room for the great.



Sunday, April 28, 2019

Being Memorable

I live around 30 miles west of Times Square, in Boonton Township, New Jersey. The Garden State. I personally do not "garden" but our neighbor raises goats, and chickens and they have a cool Donkey named Dominic. The braying of Donkeys is a distinct sound. Donkeys have the ability that horses and zebras lack: they can vocalize while they're breathing in as well as while they are breathing out. Significant sound is produced during both air intake (the hee) and air outflow (the haw). It may not be the most musical of sounds, but it's always memorable. And it is special and specific to this species.

This past week, I had my morning coffee on our deck, before heading into NYC for a day of events and meetings. And Dominic the Donkey could be clearly heard through the trees, reminding me:

Be memorable today, but don't be an ass in the process.

NYDLA helped to sponsor "For Creators by Creators NYC" which is an event for creators, entrepreneurs, investors, business leaders and innovators. It was an amazing gathering of successful crowdfunded companies and experts to meet, share resources, and engage with the community - international creators, retailers, manufacturing, legal, and investment firms.

It costs me $12.25 to take the bus from Boonton Township to 11 Times Square, NYC. One day in the near future, I am sure that this bus will be electric and self-driving. I actually enjoy these bus rides - I sit in the last row (leg room) and I work on my laptop (Secure WiFi) and I usually do Zoom meetings or chat in Basecamp with our global team during the commute. When I arrive in NYC I usually take Uber or Via or Lyft to wherever I am going if it is MORE than a 20 minute walk. Weather permitting, I like walking in NYC.

As I returned home to The Garden State that evening, I reflected on the events of the day. I had meetings with mega companies like Salesforce and Wells Fargo. And I watched freshly minted entrepreneurs - the creators, the makers, the visionary founders trying to become memorable. I remember clearly when Salesforce was born, and now we have a Salesforce Tower in NYC. I just witnessed the Zoom IPO, one for the record books. It seems like Zoom came from nowhere and now is everywhere.

When it was my turn to speak, I asked: "Raise your hand if you have a Zoom account" and I would say that 99% of the people in the room were happy Zoomies. How did Zoom do it? How did Salesforce do it? You never know who will become the next Uber or Airbnb or Spanx. Or Zoom or Salesforce or Apple.

How do you become "memorable" without becoming an A$$ in the process? One of my favorite quotes is "Become so good they can't ignore you." Make a product, a service, a system, a technology so good that life is better with you. Time is the most precious thing we have in life. If you give someone your time, you have given them a part of your life. Makers and Creators. Founders and Visionary Leaders. Make spending / investing "time" in you, with you, the best possible use of their time.

Bootstrapping entrepreneurs, or future billionaires, all have the same coin of the realm: time.

If you invest your time in a person, or in a project, or attend an event, you are forever connected with anyone and everyone who have taken that same leap of faith. Everyone in the room (at that event) anted up and pooled their most valuable resource - their time - and they (we) all can only hope that the mutual investments will pay dividends.

Whenever I attend an event, I give out my "Golden Tickets" along with my business card. I want to be memorable, and I want to curate and nurture new (and mutually rewarding) relationships. I can immediately see on the person's face their reaction. This will either become the beginning of a wonderful new relationship, or the Golden Ticket card will find it's way into the trash. And that's fine. I like to think that I can be friendly with anyone, but I can't be friends with everyone.

Time is the ultimate resource, and it is scarce.

I have no doubt that the next Zoom or the next Uber or Salesforce was in the room at the "For Creators by Creators NYC" event last week. But everyone who attended that event, has given everyone else who attended that event a part of their life. They made the investment of time. And now, since you have taken the time to read this blog - so have you.

This country, the USA is a creation "dreamed up" in the minds of it's founding fathers. Our entire country is built on the backs of and in the minds of creators, inventors, small business owners who had a vision and a dream. And all of these founders, makers and creators all worked very hard, and invested the necessary time and other resources to see their vision and dreams become reality.

So always strive to be memorable, just don't be a braying ass about it. And respect and defend others time, as if it were your own.

Because after all, it is.




Sunday, April 21, 2019

Hiding in Plain Sight

In computer software and media, an Easter Egg is a hidden message, or an intentional inside joke. Such secrets can be found in computer programs, video games, or in movies. Disney Movie Easter Eggs will probably change the way you think about your childhood.

Many times in life (and in business) the most important things are hiding in plain sight.

Shares of Zoom Video Communications (NASDAQ: ZM) soared on Thursday. After jumping 80% at the outset of the IPO, shares finished the trading day up 72% at $62. This put the stock significantly higher than the $36 price tag Zoom put on its IPO on Wednesday, the day before shares started trading.

This amazing debut gives Zoom an impressive $16.2 billion valuation, and puts their CEO Eric Yuan in the spotlight as a freshly minted multi-billionaire.

Zoom is not your average IPO. Revenue is skyrocketing. The company's business model shows clear signs of scalability. 

What drove this massive interest?

Zoom is one of the rare breed of companies that was already profitable when it made its public debut. Buying into an IPO is already a risky venture, as these IPO companies don't have a public track record.

It isn't just profitability that attracted investors to the company. Zoom is also generating significant cash flow. Net income came in at $7.6 million, up from a loss of $3.8 million in 2018. Zoom's business structure was also a factor in the demand for its IPO shares. Zoom operates on a software as a service (SaaS) model, providing cloud-based video conferencing services. This type of business is less dependent on one-time sales and generates a great deal of recurring revenue, which puts the company on a stronger financial footing.

Even in the wake of strong investor demand and a significant price run-up on its first day of trading, Zoom will have much to prove in the months and years ahead. While investors are enamored with the company today, Zoom will need to prove to investors that it can continue to maintain strong financial performance. Other newly minted public companies are extremely volatile in the short term and could come crashing down as quickly as they skyrocketed. Lyft is a great example - that stock ended its first day of trading up nearly 9% but has since fallen more than 25%.

I will never give anyone investment advice. I can however, share my observations, and I do have an opinion. I really don't know of anyone who does not have a working Gmail account. I predict the same will happen for Zoom. Just as people now say "Google it" you will soon hear people say "Let's Zoom" as Zoom will soon become a verb. Again, my humble opinion.

I have hidden many Easter Eggs in this blog post. I hope that you can find time to read them.

In the beginning all businesses are just people playing out an idea. It's never the other way around - there is no idea so big that it doesn't need good people to make it succeed. Investors know this, hence the saying "Bet on the jockey (founder), not the horse (idea)."

A great jockey is a great role model.

Yes, many times in life, the most important things (and the best investments) are hiding in plain sight.

Happy Easter, Happy Passover, Happy Spring Everyone!







Sunday, April 14, 2019

Mastering Your Domain

What is the first thing that comes to mind when you read or hear: the Masters?

I was born in 1960. For many years, "The Big Three" of Arnold Palmer, Gary Player and Jack Nicklaus dominated the Masters Tournament. From 1960 to 1978 they won the event 11 times. My father was there when in 1960 Palmer won by one stroke. Trailing Ken Veturi by one shot, Palmer made birdies on the last two holes to come from behind and win. 

I loved hearing my father retell that story, all my life. I think that is one of my best memories, watching my father's face become so animated. Every time, every year, the story would be retold, and every year the story would become more amazing. When I was old enough to be a wise cracking teenager I said: "Hey Dad, are you sure you did not carry Arnie's bag that day?

Winner's share of the Masters Tournament in 1960 was $17,500.  Just two years earlier, Palmer won and took home $11,250.

This year's winner's share is $1,980,000. Plus God only knows how much additional money will go to the winner in endorsements and sponsorship fees.

The Masters has the smallest field of the major golf championships, with 90 to 100 players. You have to be invited. The top 50 players in the world are always invited, as well as the current Olympic Gold Medalist and current U.S. Amateur Champion and runner-up. 

Jack Nicklaus has won the most Masters (six) and was 46 years, 82 days old when he won in 1986. Like my father before me, I have a Masters story to tell my sons. I was there to witness history. 

Nicklaus is the record holder for the the most top tens at the Masters with 22, and the most cuts made, with 37. He also shares the record for the most runner-up finishes at the Masters with four. 

And then came technology.

As with many courses, Augusta National's championship setup was lengthened over the years. In 2001, the course measured 6,925 yards. Today it is 7,435 yards. The changes attracted many critics. Tiger Woods claimed that the "shorter hitters are going to struggle." After a practice round Gary Player defended the changes saying "There have been a lot of criticisms, but I think unjustly. Now that I have played it, the guys are having to hit the same second shots that Jack Nicklaus had to hit in his prime." 

Back in the day, hitting a 300+ yard drive was rare. Today, driving the ball 350+ yards is routine. During the 2016-17 PGA Tour season, there were 300 measured drives of 375+ yards or longer, including eight surpassing the 400+ yard barrier. 

Ben Hogan hit his driver 265 yards. IBM recorded driving distance data at 11 PGA Tour events in 1968. The top 10 players averaged 270.2 yards, the average drive was 264.0 yards and Jack Nicklaus led the Tour with an average drive of 276.0 yards.


Technology made gradual progress in golf for more than 60 years. Then, it exploded

If we adjusted yards for increased club head speed, hotter drivers, better balls, and fairways cut at roughly 1/2 inch deeper, Jack Nicklaus would have averaged well over 320+ yards on his drives.

Jack William Nicklaus, nicknamed The Golden Bear - the best of all time. Now just imagine him playing with the "good sticks" and the Titleist Pro V1x golf balls. How many more records would he hold, if we adjusted for "inflation" of technology, and adjusting for multi-million dollar endorsement deals? 

From 1934 to 1942, the top prize for the winner at the Masters was $1,500. 

One again: today's payday for the winner is $1,980,000.

Longer drives. TV coverage. Personal trainers with nutrition. Strength and flexibility coaches. Ah yes, in business as in sports, technology (and money) changes everything. And the older I get, the faster time flies. Just like with golf balls. 










Sunday, April 7, 2019

It's easy to switch to Gmail!

Did you know that Gmail was voted #2 in PC World's Top 100 products of 2005, right after Firefox? Why wouldn't you want to switch? Well, because it can be a pain to switch to a new email address. We know. But, it doesn't have to be. We want to make it easier for you. So, we've created a new switching guide to make the transition easier. The guide covers how to:
  • Import your contacts into Gmail
  • Announce your new address
  • Remind friends that you've changed addresses
  • Still use your old address to send mail
There's even personalized help for switching from the email service you no longer care to use. But if you're not ready now, we understand. Play around with Gmail for awhile. Send and receive some messages. We think you'll like it (you might miss all that spam, though). And, when you're ready, the switching guide is in our Help Center.
Change is good. It can be easy too.

Thanks,
The Gmail Team

=============================

Wow. The above is the actual welcome email that I received from The Gmail Team, on November 21st, 2006.

The links from the original welcome email still worked. You can still read about them bragging about being the #2 product - AFTER Firefox.

Well, Happy Birthday Gmail! 

I just noticed that I have 555,478 emails archived in my all mail folder. And that huge number is AFTER 15 years of deleting junk, spam, and erasing emails that I truly felt that I would never (ever) need again. This "pack rat" feature of Gmail never really hit me, until just now.

Gmail, is a time machine.

As I scan my archived emails from 2006, 2007, 2008.....it is a roller coaster of emotions. 2009, 2010, 2011. OMG! I remember that! Oh Jeez, what was I thinking. Oh, wow, I am still doing business with them. 2012, 2013, 2014. Wow, that project was a dead end. Hey whatever happened to them? Ya know, I should give them a call.

Gmail has become a snapshot of over a quarter of my life. Relationships, trips, adventures. The wins, the losses, the lessons learned.

And here is a lesson I learned from looking at my Gmail archive: Everything is obvious, given enough time. 

It's hard to believe that Gmail celebrated its 15th birthday on April 1st. Debuting on April Fool's Day in 2004 - when given that date, many people thought that Google was pulling our leg by announcing a free email service. Gmail's launch came three years before the iPhone was a thing and a couple of years before the launch of Twitter. Today, Gmail is the premiere free email service, a centerpiece of the workday for countless professionals.

Once it became clear that Gmail was real and that it was not an April Fool's joke, invitations to Gmail became highly desired. Back then a friend had to invite you to Gmail. Although this invite only gateway was originally born out of necessity, it created an aura of exclusivity which contributed to its publicity windfall. Everyone wanted it even more. We always want what we cannot have, right? It was hailed as one of the best marketing decisions in tech history. But limiting access to a new Gmail account was actually unintentional. Google could not handle the volume - Google was not 100% certain Gmail was going to be a success. So, they only had it loaded on a few servers. Limiting access was not for marketing purposes.

Yes indeed. Everything is obvious, given enough time. 

If you have a Gmail account, I invited you to look at your oldest archived emails. And then scroll forward in time. You might also say to yourself:

I remember that! Oh Jeez, what was I thinking. Oh, wow, I am still doing business with them. Wow, that project was a dead end. Hey whatever happened to them? Ya know, I should give them a call.

In the Spirit of Gmail's birthday (April 1st) I just found the emails from 2006 with the subject line: "Meeting for Coffee"

And I just replied to all of those invites for coffee from 2006 with:

"Hey, sorry I've been swamped. How about this week?"