Great Article on Lines from Breck Yunit

Look for a Line

“A good friend passed along some business advice to me a few months ago. “Look for a line,” he said. Basically, if you see a line out the door at McDonald’s, start Burger King. Lines are everywhere and are dead giveaways for good business ideas and good businesses.

Let’s use Groupon as a case study for the importance of lines. Groupon scoured Yelp for the best businesses in its cities–the businesses that had virtual lines of people writing positive reviews–and created huge lines for these businesses with their discounts. Other entrepreneurs saw the number of people lining up to purchase things from Groupon and created a huge line of clones. Investors saw other investors lining up to buy Groupon stock and hopped in line as well. Business is all about lines.

In every country we travel to I look around for lines. It’s a dead giveaway for finding good places to eat, fun things to do, amazing sites to see. If you want to start a business, look for lines and either create a clone or create an innovation that can steal customers from that line. If you see tons of people lining up to take taxis, start a taxi company. Better yet, start a bus.”

What about creating fake lines?



Ground Balls Win Games

What separates the winners from the losers.  Drive, talent, and luck.  So what separates the successful from the super successful?  If you are playing in a field with the best of the best and under the assumption that everybody is driven and highly talented what separates the gamechangers from the others.

Ground Balls Win Games.  It is the person that hustles for everything, that moves now instead of tomorrow, that goes after everything possible under the sun in order to one day own the sun.  In baseball their are many groundballs that are impossible.  Most players let the impossible ones go and give their best on the difficult but achievable ones.  However, it is the Derek Jeters who jump 3 rows into the stands for the impossible foul ball, bloody and bruised, but scoring a vital playoff victory.

Ground Balls Win Games is also seen in many people who usually from nothing became industry leaders.  Once they say something you always know it is done, not in days or weeks but hours.  An easy way to spot these GBWG people is in business.  People who send quick replies with quick action oriented statements are GBWG people.

I have 2 recent examples.  When I have certain questions I email with somebody in Silicon Valley who founded the first major Silicon Valley law firm, is on the board of many of the legendary valley companies,  and was a close advisor to Steve Jobs.  You would think somebody of such stature would have so much on his plate that it would take awhile to hear back.  The average time (I counted) to hear back from this guy was 52 minutes.  Compare that to average response for the average person you work with.

Second example centers around a prolific VC who is not only highly visible but is also one of the most sought after people in the industry.  I send an email and within a few hours I hear back.

I know neither person professionally or informally.  Both people are examples of Ground Balls Win Games.  Both people are Jeter’s of their respective industry.  GBWG does not separeate winners from loosers, it seperates the cream of the crop, the leaders from the followers.

For the Love of The Game

There is a place in Mountainview, California called HackerDojo.  HackerDojo as the name suggests is a shared work space for hackers.  There are many such places all around the world.  However, I have never seen anything like HackerDojo.  If you look at all the other shared offices spaces from Dubai to NYC, they are just that shared work spaces where people come in and leave when they are done with a day’s work.

However, at HackerDojo the people are there all the time, they drink and bbq with each other on Fridays, plan events together on Saturdays and the difference is they are not there until 6am working on a startup but also on personal projects that they are curious about.  Rarely have I seen people pulling the all nighter for a startup (once in awhile or a few days for short period), but I have never seen people stay up all night to build for fun. This is not people building in a living room with a lamp on and TV on mute, but this is a large group of people staying up all night just building to build.

This has lead me to reflect on 3 types of people in this world.

1) Those who work to live

2) Those who live to work

3) Those who work for the love of the game

1) Most of Europe with the capital of this group in Barcelona (where I first heard the term) These people do the minimal amount required to earn enough money to enjoy their lives, their family, their vacation, and the beaches. Category 1 makes up vast majority of people.

2) Highly talented ambitous people.  They work hard and get shit done.  These are often the executers who occupy senior leadership positions in most companies or governments.  They do not inspire but they are great at what they do and they usually make sure they are working with other great people as well.  Some tend to be mercenaries and jump at the next opportunity that arises.

3) The best founders, visionaries, hackers, teachers,leaders, athletes and rainmakers.  They are only there every day because they love what they do.  These people can range from a founder of a startup to a teacher in the inner city.  They work the hardest, are the most enthusiastic, and set the tone for the entire company/class/workforce.   They work 24/7 but it is not work for them, it’s fun.  Think Michael Jordan, Steve Jobs, and Thomas Edison.  The key to success of most enterprises lives and dies with these people.

Last night I heard the founder of Zaarly speak about one of his biggest worries is that after the age of 50, people his company will begin to loose its unique culture.  I think what he is referring to was at a certain point you have holes in an organization and you begin to fill them with people in the first category, the 9-5′s, and once you loose something most often there is no way to get it back.



The Guy Behind Google

Recently I heard Reid Hoffman give a speech.  For those of you that do not know Reid Hoffman was one of they key guys behind Paypal, founded LinkedIn, and is now managing director of Greylock.

When he spoke he commented that he was nervous because in attendance was one of his major mentors.  I wrote the mentors name down and met with him 2 weeks ago.  I told him what I was working on and he told me that it was   impossible and  not viable.  I disagreed and think he was wrong.

After we met, I thought he was a nice guy and another one of the highly talented Stanford professors.  Only recently after meeting with a Stanford Phd. student did I find out 2 things about the man I had just met.

1) He is considered as the resident genius in the Stanford CS department.

2) When Larry Page was deciding on his thesis, this was the guy who told him to do Pagerank (basis behind Google search) as his thesis.

San Francisco vs Palo Alto

Although San Francisco is making a big push to become the next Palo Alto, here is why Palo Alto still wins.

1) Stanford

One of the top universities in the United States.  However, Stanford is not just full of highly intelligent people; in every field of study, from freshman to seniors, even the janitors (no joke a janitor was pitching me on an idea at lunch last week) everybody is focused on startups.  Not only do companies have access to highly talented undergrad/grad students but the professors are very accomodating and love to share their insights.  Depending on the professor, advice and help is worth millions of dollars in consulting fees and is often given away for free as a way to give back to the community

2) Events.  Every day their is a minimum of 3 different meetups.  In most of the world most meetups/forums are bullshit and a waste of time (other than free pizza and beer).  Here the quality of people at these meetups are rediculous.  People that have helped invent the Internet, taken companies public, or lead companies that you read on Fortune/Forbes/techcrunch everyday.  I was at a meetup yesterday where there was a panel of speakers that included the former CTO of NASA , one of the first guys at Intel, and the President of the Linux foundation.  This is standard for most meetups in the valley area.  Most meetups in other parts of the world consist of a CEO of a random bullshit company with a useless idea/ VC/ “expert” in the field.

3) No Distractions.  If you lived in SF you could go out 7 nights a week (similar to most other cities.)  In Palo Alto or similar towns  in the Valley, you have the same 3 or 4 bars, some restaurants, hiking, and thats about it.  Your likelihood to get distracted is about 1/100 X less  in the valley as compared to a city like SF.  If you look at some of the biggest companies they came from the valley including Netscape, Paypal, Google, and Apple.

4) Talent- I continue to believe that the best/ entrepreneur minded talent resides in Palo Alto.  Many of the talented people in SF work for Google/Facebook. Many other startup employees commute each day down to Silicon Valley on comfortable company coach buses.  They work their standard 6-10 hour days and then they can go home and enjoy SF without any worries on their mind. Everybody in the Palo Alto area is either working on their own startup or working in early stage startups.

Easy ideas do not evolve into radical disruption game changing companies. Often, the very difficult, the impossible, the idea that experts tell you is shit,  is the winner.  Then when it comes to execution drive often plays a major role and distractions cut into drive.


Cultural Issues?

I have now been out in California for 3 weeks.  For 3 weeks I have slept on a friends couch.  Looking for an apartment is like shopping but 10,000 times worse.  Its bad enough going from store to store in a mall, but with looking for an apartment you have to

A) look for places

B) communicate with current residents

C) Communicate with landlord

D) Repeat.

Since I do not like the process I have not been actively looking.  2 weeks ago I found a great house with a great rent in a legit location.  I met 1 of the roomates who took me on a tour.  When we were done, he told me that I am in.  Next day another roomate emails me the lease application from the landlord and told me to email back to the landlord.

I look at the application and it is over 4 pages long asking for my bank accounts, prior references, salary, job history, where my grandmother was born (just kidding on the last one.) Instead of spending an hour to complete the landlords form, I switched it up a little.  I emailed the landlord back that the 4 page lease is useless and that it is only a 3 month lease and I would pay upfront and I would meet with him in person if he would like before he rents to me.

After my “useless” comment I never heard from him again.  The guy would not respond to 2 emails and 2 phone calls.  Maybe it was a culture difference, I was just being direct and honest with the guy.  Maybe a little too direct and not quite polite enough.  While most people would have given up, I decided to give it one last shot…..

Over the last 1.5 years, I have learned how to “research.” I managed to find out this guy’s name and home address.  I figured I would come to his house, apologize for the “useless” comment, see that I am a nice guy, and maybe all would be OK.  So I got his address, drove to his house and rang his doorbell.

At first he invited me in and was very friendly.  Then he found out who I was and things turned south.  However, I told him that my “useless” comment was the result of different cultural issues.  We then talked another 10 minutes and he told me that everything was OK; he misinterpreted the email and that he understood it was a cultural misunderstanding.  He told me that he liked me and I could have the place.

As I was leaving, when we both got to the door, he told me thinking about how I invaded his privacy.  In fact that he never has seen anybody with ability to get address and since I got his address that I would get his social security.  I told him I was not interested in his social security, just would like that room in his house. He then told me that I invaded his privacy greatly, and despite issue #1 the “useless” comment being resolved, now we have a new issue # 2 about his privacy invasion.

At this point I had enough and left.  Fucking America.  Thoughts, comments, ideas for next time??

California Living: 2 Weeks

Today is my 2nd week out in California. In Silicon Valley, from Stanford to Mountainview to San Francisco all people talk about is startups, cloud computing, and startups.  In the bars instead of speaking about football and basketball, people speak about applications and platforms.  Whatever country I have spent time in, I normally see a wide range of people from geniuses working on rocket defense systems to people who couldn’t figure out how to turn on a light switch.  However, here everybody seems to be the highest caliber, judging by schools alone all the people I meet are Stanford, MIT, Harvard, etc.

Although there is much debate, and I have been here only 2 weeks without a doubt, Palo Alto is the center of it all (will explain more in a later post).

Although people ask me all the time, what am I doing, my answer is not the standard stealth mode (those people have no idea what they are doing).  I know what I want to do and have an idea and a gameplan on how to do it. It need a talented cofounder who is both a ridiculously talented developer but also somebody who is highly dedicated and knows startup life is tough.  Finding the right person is difficult, but doable.  There is only one way to do it; meeting people is the key.  However, not via the new social media tools of meeting people: Facebook, Twitter, Google +, LinkedIn, FourSquare, and many more.

The way to the right cofounder is from friends of friends or friends of acquaintances or friends of random people you meet at a conference, bar, cafe, hallway, gym, etc.  I have spent time at Google, Apple, and soon Yahoo!,  If I knew talented people resided at a homeless shelter, I would move in for a week stay.   Despite all the 21st century technological advances, the single most important item in building a company (finding right cofounder) has remained unchanged for the past 100 years: people connecting with people.

Since I needed to travel to meet with these people out here I decided to buy a car.  A few days ago just bought a Mustang Convertible, see the picture below.



Got It!

I left the previous startup on October 15th.  Since that time, I went from traveling all over the world, running a team, building new products, testing out new ideas, bringing “money in the bank” to sitting in an office researching.  I hate sitting and even more I hate researching.

For 3 months and 12 days I have been researching and thinking, working harder than I have ever done in the past with almost 0 results to show for it.  I met with entrepreneurs, angels, VC’s, “experts”, to get feedback on different ideas I had.  The feedback I got was mostly positive, but nobody loved it and I did not ask 1 person to put in a dollar nor did I start building.  Why?

My gut never told me this is it.  I thought the different ideas had potential, but I never had the Got It! moment.  In College with every previous business I saw a market need and had the Got It! moment, chartered coach buses and party buses for college sports (Muckfichigan), online gambling (Madtownsports) , and online alcohol delivery (Campusdrank) .

I did not want to take 1 dollar of somebody else’s money, and I did not want to begin until I knew.  I did not feel comfortble taking somebody else’s money if I did not know without question that I would kill it for them. Now I know.  I was in Dubai recently to meet investors/experts as well as others and I got some feedback on a previous idea which led me to make some changes.  However, I was trying to do much in order to hit a goal of mine which is creating the next revolutionary idea.

Yesterday, last Friday night I came up with a new idea.  Within 5 minutes of the idea, I had the Got It! moment.  I have been waiting and looking for the last 3 months for this moment and last night BOOM.

Just booked a flight to New York for this coming Saturday.  Just booked a flight to Silicon Valley February 15th.  And so it BEGINS……..


Early Influencers: The New Power Players of the 21st Century

For a new product, company, charity, or anything else new to the market, the power of “early adopters” and “influencers” is huge.  One startup in particular, klout has capitalized on the concept of identifying the early influencers through a social or influencer score and then making these influencers available to large scale brands.

People are like sheep, they follow.  The first few follow the leaders or “influencers,” then people follow their friends, and finally once the movement is big enough they follow the crowd.  There was a great TedX video that demonstrates this whole concept.

Twitter has morphed into a news consumption service where celebrities and other influencers spread information to the entire world.  Spread information varies from Kanye West recents outbursts to protests times and locations for the ongoing revolution in Syria.

As a startup you win the early influencers, and for the most part you win the crowd.  Once you have the crowd you win the game (sale to large size company).  In order to “kill it” you have to do more than just win the crowd, but create a service that continually increases audience share, with a potential to monetize and an ability to revolutionize an industry. GroupOn, Pandora, LinkedIn, are all examples that recently have gone public. Another example is the SOPA protest.  First the early adopters started speaking about it months ago, then the friends of the early adopters in the last month have brought it up, and with todays websites shut down now the mainstream press has got involved and everybody (the crowd) now knows about this impending legislation.