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.

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, 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?"