Archive for March, 2008

How Can You Forget The Words to “Hungry Like The Wolf?”

From Reuters:

Duran Duran’s world tour got off to an awkward start in New Zealand on Wednesday as singer Simon Le Bon forgot the lyrics and bassist John Taylor stormed off stage, according to a published report. […] Le Bon forgot the words to “Hungry Like the Wolf,” one of the band’s biggest hits, the Herald reported.

If I was six margaritas into my evening I could still remember the words to “Hungry Like The Wolf.” What sort of humongous pot plants are they growing down in New Zealand?


Instrumentation is Developer Crack

Kevin Merritt over at blist has a post up on software instrumentation — aka “developer crack” because most developers LOVE to write these types of applications. I know I do. I could create these types of dashboards till the elves return from the Undying Lands.

However, as my friend Damon notes in his post Perfect is the Enemy of the Good, when you’re developing a new product in a hot market there’s a natural tension between engineering too much into the product vs. getting something out the door for customers to actually start using. Using Kevin’s example, why spend the time developing the geeky analytics for the CSV upload tool if your first three prospective customers say they hate that feature and never will use it? Cut it and move on.

This is sort of ironic for me to be writing, because I do see the value of instrumentation, and have personally forestalled several major catastrophes when I got early warning from home-grown instrumentation software I’ve written.  But as NFL scouts will tell you, speed kills!

p.s. I found out something at Startup Drinks Seattle a few days ago that had been bugging me:  How do you pronounce “blist”?  I thought it was “bee-list” but its actually rhymes with the Canadian adjective for drunk.

A Parable of Coke and Pepsi

I’ve been working through a brand management problem in my head today and think I have it narrowed down. So, for the benefit of you, my loyal reader, I’ll write out my thoughts.

Let’s say that Coke has 60% of the market and Pepsi has 40%. One might conclude that this represents actual consumer preference. But let’s further hypothesize that the _actual_ (but as yet unknown) preference of consumers is exactly the opposite — 60% prefer Pepsi. However, because of superior distribution, marketing, and exclusivity deals, Coke retains the sales lead.

My question is: if Pepsi did know the actual preference numbers, to some high degree of certainty, what would they do differently? What would Coke do with the information? Could Pepsi make some strategic decisions that would take advantage of that knowledge? Conversely, could Coke defend their position better if they had it?

Twenty or twenty-five years ago, cola taste tests were all the rage. I’m assuming that enough tests were done that the sides got some statistically significant information about consumer preference. So this probably isn’t just a hypothetical conversation.

The missing piece for me is the relative weighting one should assign to the structural elements that Coke has in place – distribution, exclusivity, better partners, production cost advantages, whatever — vs. the intangible elements that the Coke brand brings to the equation.

Expressed in an equation, it is:

Advantage = Structure + Brand

But which is the bigger term? Even more importantly, to what extent does additional, better information help a company’s ability to make rapid changes in their strategy? The equation, it must be remembered, is never static, and rates of change are sometimes more important than absolute numbers.

I’m wandering a little bit, but let me try to bottom-line it:

(a) how much of a benefit is it to have deep knowledge of consumer attitudes about your brand, given that you may have structural obstacles to overcome first; and (b) armed with this knowledge, how can you best leverage it?

That’s what I want to know.

Minimally Invasive?

From Science Daily:

On March 26, 2008, surgeons at UC San Diego Medical Center removed an inflamed appendix through a patient’s vagina, a first in the United States. Following the 50-minute procedure, the patient, Diana Schlamadinger, reported only minor discomfort. Removal of diseased organs through the body’s natural openings offers patients a rapid recovery, minimal pain, and no scarring. Key to these surgical clinical trials is collaboration with medical device companies to develop new minimally-invasive tools.

Methinks that the idea of shoving surgical tools up a woman’s hoo-hoo and removing a inflamed, potentially explosive, body organ through a cut in the vaginal wall is most definitely NOT “minimally invasive”. That definition had to be made by a man.

I’d be willing to bet that 9 out of 10 women would say “go in through my belly button, please!”

Portland Tops Seattle, Author Wears Hair Shirt And Goes Into Wilderness

OK, Portland beat Seattle in one of these “best places” polls.  It’s the Fortune Magazine “Best Places to Live and Launch” list for 2008, and Portland came in at #6.  Seattle?  Didn’t even make the top 100.

How is this so, you may ask?  I’m thinking some sort of big Keno game tacked to the wall at the Fortune headquarters.  Or perhaps astrology.  Maybe old-fashioned ballot-stuffing.

Bellevue, which is sort of like an appendage to Seattle (a good one, not one of the icky kind), ranked #1.  I can’t get much joy out of that, even though my brother-in-law lives there.

(h/t John Cook)

Why Seattle Startup Entrepreneurs are Good Company

I’ve been spending a lot of time lately learning about, and participating in, the local startup community in Seattle and am going to step back, take a 30,000 foot view, and spend some time telling you why I like you.

Is it your money? A lot of you have obviously made some mind-boggling fortunes. You have accounts at Charles Schwab that cause their own gravitational pull. But no, it’s not the money. Plenty of you work for a salary, have never started a company, and your 401(k) has barely begun to see five figures.

Is it your success? There’s a lot of you that have started, ran, and sold multiple successful businesses, or are running one now. You’ve been the Head Cheese at industry-changing outfits, and are a “go-to person” in your field. But no, it’s not the success. Plenty of you are still climbing the ladder, have faced setbacks, or are just starting out.

Is it your notoriety? Some of you or are on lists of Top Bloggers, or the Seattle Startup Index, or have 6,000 Twitter followers, or whatever. But no, it’s not your notoriety. Plenty of you have never been on any of those lists, and can count your Twitter followers on two hands.

Is it your smarts? Some of you are technical geniuses, or business geniuses, or both. You’re the type who program neural networks in your spare time, or can do NPV calculations five years out in your head, or can juggle 100 pressing details about your product and barely break a mental sweat. You may have had an important theory named after you. But no, it’s not your smarts. Plenty of you are average Janes and Joes, like me.

You know what it is? It’s your optimism. Every outing — no matter what — I come away absolutely enthused, refreshed, with a happy outlook on life, career, and the world. Everything is possible. Nothing is out of the question, nothing too difficult, too permanent, or too unknowable. You, individually and as a group, have a belief in yourselves that is on the far right side of the bell curve. That is gold right there. Optimism is better than money, success, fame, or anything else, because it makes the world the best of all possible worlds (h/t Voltaire).

So that’s why I like you!

Hillary for NY Gov?

Jon Alter on Countdown tonight saying that key Democratic movers and shakers are floating the idea of HRC for NY Governor as both a face-saving measure as well as a way to position herself for ’12.

Chuck Todd thinks it’s hogwash. Games within games within games.

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