Sunday, March 31, 2019

Are you a Playa?

On Thursday morning at 7:30 am we were out of dog food. And we were out of coffee. And we needed milk. So I made the run to the local store. On my way out of the store I saw this discarded gift card holder. It was on the sidewalk, just a few feet from a trash can. I picked it up to throw it away - and then I looked at it.  

What the hell is a Playa Bowl? 

So I put it in my pocket, and decided to Google 'em when I got home. Turns out that I must be the only person on the planet that did NOT know about Playa Bowls. Or Pineappleland.

The entrepreneurial journey of Robert Giuliani and Abby Taylor (founders) is well documented on their website. I filled out their "contact us" page, introducing myself. I said that their story would make a great video podcast for the I did not think that I would ever hear back from them. They probably get a million people filling out their online forms every day. That's OK, I had lots of things to keep me busy.

I heard back from their webmaster by 8:30 am. 

We shall record a podcast and blast it out to millions. It does not look like Robert and Abby need my help telling their amazing entrepreneurial story. But why would they turn it down? 

And now, here I am blogging about them

Tomorrow I will be recording a video podcast with Mike McDerment. Mike is the CEO and the co-founder of FreshBooks, the worlds #1 cloud accounting software for self-employed professionals. Built in 2003 Mike spent 3.5 years growing FreshBooks from his parent's basement. Since then, over 10 million people have used FreshBooks to save time billing, and collecting billions of dollars. That's billions. 

Back in 2010, I was trying to get Mike to add "my stuff" to "his stuff" at FreshBooks. 

Here is what Mike said to me via an email:

Tom – I always get a boost out of hearing from you! So…these are great sales and marketing tools our customers can benefit from. That said, strategically we are focusing on things that add value to our billing and bookkeeping capabilities (i.e. leverage the kind of data we help folks manage, or bring new data in). Which is to say, I think these offerings are well suited to our customer base, but not so much our particular strategy for delivering value to them through our add-ons. Does that make sense? I hope so. Frankly, I would love to offer everything and the kitchen sink to our Customers – they need it all! But we also believe there is a four letter word in business…FOCUS! So…we’re trying to focus on offerings that directly add value to our service, or help extend that of another. Thanks for the well wishing! Again, hoping that makes sense. Also hoping things are well on your end! ~ Mike

So Mike let me down easy, and he took the time to tell me why. That was in 2010. And now, here we are doing a video podcast (tomorrow) that will reach millions of people. And we love FreshBooks more today than we did in 2010. Today, all FreshBooks clients can (indeed) use everything we have. We are (now) in a position to "deliver the goods" in high volume, with (as Mike says...) FOCUS. FreshBooks has become a value-added member benefit of the 

What business lessons come to mind when you read this blog? Persistence? Timing? Tenacity?

I never met Rob and Abby, but I feel like I already know them. I never met Mike (in person) but I feel like he is a friend. Because of technology, the world has changed many times since 2010. You never know when or where (or with who) your next big opportunity is going to appear. 

Sometimes the next big thing will take years to develop. Sometimes the next big thing is sitting a few feet away, on the ground, next to a trash can. 

In business, things can move very slowly, sometimes they can move very fast. No matter if you are a startup, or a mature business: always be ready, and always be persistent. But above all, always be nice. 

I'm pretty sure that all new members will be receiving Playa Bowls gift cards in the near future. I don't think Rob and Abby will mind a few million new customers, what do you think?   

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Do you Zoom?

Do you Zoom? If you were born in the 1960's (like me) you remember ZOOM. It was a half-hour TV show, created almost entirely by children. It aired from January 9, 1972 to February 10, 1978. Unlike other children's fare at the time, it was, for the most part, unscripted. Far from seeking to make stars of the child performers, their contracts prohibited them from making any television appearances or doing commercials for three years after they left the show.

When I started hearing about "Zoom" several years ago, my brain was pre-programmed. I now laugh to think that I was confusing Zoom with Zoom the TV series, with kids speaking their own language, Ubbi-Dubbi.

Zoom (the modern version) is the hot video meeting startup that just filed to go public. And it is profitable.

Zoom founder and CEO Eric Yuan owns 22% of Zoom, which was founded in 2011. Eric was previously VP of Engineering at the video conferencing company WebEx. Eric joined Cisco in 2007 when it bought WebEx for $3.2 billion.

Zoom sells subscriptions for enterprise-grade video conference services, used by companies like - well - like EVERYONE.

Does Zoom have competitors? Many.

Cisco's WebEx, Microsoft's Skype, Google and LogMeIn to name just a few. What does Zoom have that their competitors do not have?

Eric Yuan. 

Zoom has gained popularity by creating an easy-to-use service that works smoothly on mobile devices and is affordable for small groups and teams, which has created a wide and diversified customer base. Zoom's top 10 customers account for less than 10 percent of revenue. It's thousands of clients include Conde Nast, Uber and Williams-Sonoma.

Here is the point. Google "Eric Yuan Best CEO"

Eric Yuan was ranked #1 on Glassdoor's annual list of best-rated CEOs. CEO Approval Rating: 98%

From his interview:

"The first time I applied for a U.S. visa, I was rejected. I continued to apply again and again over the course of two years and finally received my visa on the ninth try. When I came to America, I did not even speak English, but I knew I could write software code. I knew I had to work hard, so I did. Also, I'm very paranoid. I would say to myself, I have to work harder. Working hard, that's the only thing I can know better than my competitor."

Eric says that he developed the idea for Zoom Video when he was a freshman at college in China. His girlfriend lived far away, which promoted him to think about building a device that would allow them to make video calls. "I first envisioned Zoom when I regularly took a ten-hour train ride to visit my girlfriend (who is now my wife). I detested those rides and used to imagine other ways I could visit my girlfriend without traveling - those daydreams eventually became the basis for Zoom."

The top-rated CEO in the U.S. is a Chinese immigrant.
The top-rated video conferencing service in the U.S. is Zoom.

Do you Zoom? If you don't, you soon will.

And that's a good thing.

Zoom Trade Show Booth - Enterprise Connect 2019

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Do not cast your pods before swine

If you are reading this blog, there is a 99% chance that you have a smartphone. And, there is a 99% chance that you have AT LEAST ONE podcast loaded into your smartphone.

There is another amazing statistic: if you are an avid podcast listener, you have probably thought to yourself: I should make a podcast!

And maybe, just maybe, you have already made the leap to do so.

A common question is "how many podcasts are there?" Most of the data out there is outdated, but we have an accurate method of determining the number of shows, and it's currently over 660,000.

Let's say that again: there are over 660,000 podcasts - and growing rapidly each week. 

There are over 32 million episodes as of February 2019. Here are some cool statistics:
  • 60% of all homes are podcast fans
  • 70% of the US population is familiar with the term "podcasting" - up from 64% in 2018
  • 51% (144 million) of the US population has listened to a podcast - up from 44% in 2018
  • 45% of monthly podcast listeners have a household income of over $75K
  • 27% of US podcast listeners have a 4-year college degree vs. 19% for US population
  • 49% of podcast listening is done at home, 22% listen while driving
  • 80% listen to all or most of each podcast episode
  • 19% listeners increase the speed (listen faster)
  • 65% of monthly podcast listeners have been listening for less than 3 years
  • 69% agreed that podcast ads made them aware of new products or services
  • Podcast listeners are more likely to subscribe to Netflix or Amazon Prime
  • Podcast listeners listen to an average of 7 different shows per week, up from 5 in 2018
  • Comedy is the most popular podcasting genre, followed by education and news

The term "podcast" is derived from the media player, "iPod" developed by Apple, and the term "broadcast" the traditional means of receiving information and leisure content on the radio or television. When the two words were merged, the terms podcast, or podcaster and the "art of podcasting" were born. 

A few years ago, I met Adam Carolla at an NYDLA event. I was fascinated by his story of how he got into podcasting - and how he became the most downloaded podcast in the world. We offered Adam's podcasting class for free to all NYDLA members. 

In today's business world, you would never consider NOT having a website. Well, very soon (today?) not having a podcast is going down the same path. Mark my words, it will soon become impossible to "not" have a podcast for your business, your brand or your body of work

As stated above, Comedy is the most popular podcasting genre, followed by education and news. 

I think that (over time) education shall take over the #1 spot.

I also think that the term "podcaster" shall become synonymous with teacher, trainer or coach. And that's no joke. 

Check out our latest NEIGH-DLAH cast 
with Peter Onorati here

Sunday, March 3, 2019

On a cloudy day... You can see forever...

On a "cloudy" day...You can see forever... My apologies to Barbara Streisand.

This past week was Collaboration Week NYC. They say that if you are the smartest person in a room, you are in the wrong room.

Well, I was in no danger of being in the wrong room at any point during the week. We had AMAZING meetings at Microsoft, Google, SAMSUNG, Polycom, and many other very generous NYC sponsors.

Collaboration is the process of two or more people or organizations working together to complete a task or achieve a goal. It is similar to cooperation or teamwork. Most collaboration requires leadership, although the form of leadership can be social within a decentralized group. ("NYED-LA") is all about global collaboration. Since 1983 Distance Learning morphed into DIGITAL Learning, which is now simply DIGITAL LIVING. I don't know when the term The Big Apple was first used, but there are many apples on a tree - but only one BIG apple.

I love pointing out that "You can find people reading the New York Times in LA, but no one can be found reading the LA Times in New York". And now, thanks to "the cloud" you can read the New York Times from anywhere in the world. Give me good WiFi and an iPad, laptop and smartphone and I'm a very happy camper.

There are 55M+ people living, learning, working and playing in the New York Megalopolis. As a kid I grew up in northern New Jersey looking at the New York City skyline, feeling like I was looking at Oz.

In today's globally connected world, work is not a place that you go - it's what you do.

But only a few years ago, work WAS a place that you went. You NEEDED to go into the city - because the office in the skyscraper was where the phone system was located.The office was where the filing cabinets were kept, the office was where the meeting rooms, the conference rooms, and typewriters were located.

Same for schools - you had to GO TO SCHOOL - because that is where the classrooms were located, and the blackboards, and the library. As for a college education, you HAD to travel to a college campus - or pay extra to live on campus. There was no alternative. And a college or university was judged by the quality and the size of its library.

Microsoft - 11 Times Square NYC

Today, a college campus is judged by the speed of its WiFi, and how people feel about the campus Starbucks is more important than the school library. And there is a very good chance that the student rec center or the gym on a college campus (or exercise center in a hotel) will have a Peloton with live and on-demand classes.

In my lifetime, everything changed. I was born in 1960. I clearly remember our family having ONE PHONE (rotary) in the kitchen, with a long cord. I witnessed the birth of The Internet (ARPANET) and the first car phones and fax machines. I was an early user of voicemail, and AOL, and email. I remember using a beeper and having to go find a payphone to check messages.

Telemedicine is changing healthcare on a global basis. There are people born in remote parts of the world who will now see a Physician for the very first time in their lives - all because of the cloud.

They say that the only thing constant in life - is change.

I am not so sure that is completely true. I do indeed believe that THE WAY that we collaborate - THE WAY that we live, learn, work and play certainly has changed, and will continue to morph and change over time.

But I feel that THE NEED for humans to collaborate, ah - that basic human need has remained constant.

I feel that Maslow's hierarchy of needs is still very much in effect regardless of the technology of the day. Meeting people live and "in person" changes the brain chemistry, it changes the dynamic of the relationship. You need both live and virtual meetings for a healthy balance.

We just finished Collaboration Week NYC. Hundreds of us from the industry, meeting LIVE, in the greatest city in the world.

It was a busy week of live meetings, live presentations, shaking hands, exchanging business cards. Industry experts and end-user customers, all breaking bread and having "adult beverages" with colleagues, clients, vendors and sponsors.

Not virtual, but live.

We all gathered (live) in THE BIG APPLE, to collaborate and to learn from each other and to share best practices about TBLS (Technology Based Learning Systems) and the future of collaboration.

Ah yes. People. People, who need people...are the luckiest the world.