fred Wilson

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Fred Wilson is a blogger (www.avc.com) and businessman I admire greatly. He blogs daily and share his knowledge without second thought.  He’s probably the most prominent VC on the east coast if not the county.  In a recent speech given at MIT, he mentioned that on his first ever test there he had gotten a zero.  About MIT he said, and I paraphrase, “When you go to MIT to go from being the smartest kid at your school to being the dumbest.” Anyway when asked about his nil test score his professor the response was “You didn’t understand the question.”

Here’s the thing about brand planning. The ones who get it right aren’t the ones with the best methodology or framework. They are the ones who understand the question. The problem is that question always changes. Yesterday I posted brand strategy is not Chaos Theory.  But if the question changes for every brand strategy, isn’t that a bit chaotic?

A generic question for all brands might be “What value or behavior does the brand provide that best meets the needs of the customer?”  Doesn’t seem like a bad question. But, per Fred Wilson’s professor, it’s the wrong one. Only when you are waist deep in a brand, customer care-abouts and brand good-ats can one ask the real question. It will be a business question, tempered by consumer insight, and help you pass that first and last test.

Happy hunting!

Peace.

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Fred Wilson VC from Union Square Partners and a blogging hero of mine was quoted today on AVC as saying “…it hasn’t been that easy for a seller to be creative on social networks. Posting a link to their shop on facebook, or tweeting or pinning their latest item is fine. But doing that over and over quickly gets boring for everyone.”

Social networks are template based mediums. You know what else is a template based media? Broadcast advertising: TV and radio. And they tend to suffer a similar fate. So how do advertising agents break the broadcast template? I think we try to make it twitch-able. (A twitch being a media move from one device to another in search of clarification.) Shazam is something that can do this. Twitter too. But no one has done a great, breakthrough job with these technologies in broadcast yet. It’s coming.

So what’s the Idea? Send me your thoughts (steve@whatstheidea.com) so we can break out of this broadcast boredom cycle.

Peace.

 

 

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phil jackson quote                                                Andy Weissman, Union Square Partners

I read this quote yesterday written by Union Square Partner’s Andy Weissman. It was mentioned by Fred Wilson in his blog AVC. The point of the quote was that venture capitalists are most effective when they provide a framework for decision-making to funded companies. Having worked at a start-up with a very special product, but no framework, I can empathize. The start-up went under but the lesson stuck. It stuck hard. A billion dollars hard.

My business, What’s the Idea?, a brand and marketing consultancy, is dedicated to providing frameworks to companies –start-up or otherwise – who understand the need for business-winning structure. For business winning decision making. I’ve written scores or marketing plans; the ones that work adhere to a brand strategy framework.

Yogi Berra said “If you don’t know where you are going, you might not get there.” To that I will add, if you don’t arm your players or employees with a framework they will have a hard time performing. Peace!

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I’m not a pinner or user of Pinterest (yet), but recently visited the site in an effort to help out a friend with a woodworking business; my intent was to get him to display his amazing work.  Pinterst recognized the fact that I was not an active user and so popped up a quickie tour of new features.  The pop up made it sound as if they were sharing new enhancements, but it could easily have just been their way of reorienting and activating me.

Nice finesse Pinterest.  This is how the web should work.  In my world, where a website should represent the brand plan (one claim, three proof planks), pop-ups or interstitial pages that vary based upon your visiting behavior are refreshing. A return visitor that always heads straight to contacts or about should be offered a quick link there. A first time or lapsed user should be treated with special gloves. A repeat purchaser should get the special treatment — perhaps a surprise every now and again, and other delights.

But this doesn’t happen very often.

We have really kind of forgotten the website these past few years as we go all head down on shiny new social media and moble. And now “content marketing” is the haps. Often unbridled content marketing. Off-piste content marketing.  (That’s why it’s smart to use thought leaders in the practice – see Kyle Monson and www.Knock2x.com for instance.)

Fred Wilson and John Battelle in a recent video chafed at the notion of giving traffic to other’s websites.  I agree. Social and content are kind of like chumming and fishing, but once the fish is on the line it needs to come into the boat.

Websites are the biggest most important development in commerce since the telephone.  Let’s get back to optimizing them. Steve Rubel, you with me on this? Peace.

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Readers have heard me speak of a marketing convention called Twitch Point Planning, a rigor which helps planners “undertand, map and manipulate consumers closer to a sale.” Twitch Point Planning is an outgrowth of today’s, multi-channel, always on media devices.  Today I was reading the NYT and came across an article about George Orwell and the town Katha in Myanmar where he wrote his first novel “Burmese Days.”   Before I had finished the article, I’d powered up the Kindle, logged on the new office WIFI password, and downloaded the book for $2.99.  That’s a Twitch and the newspaper story was a Twitch Point.

Now, had I only been half interested in George Orwell, or Burma, or Myanmar I may not have transacted business.  So what might sellers of this book put in my way, elsewhere, to move me closer to a sale?  That’s the $64,000 question.  Thinking about that, is thinking as a Twitch Point planner.

moors google maps

What will emerge from this model? Well, if the NYT shared it topics and content with the public in real time, or perhaps the day before publishing, Twitch Point Planners would know what searchable terms, pictures, Google maps, images might be worthy of content or advertising attachment.  When Fred Wilson (of  AVC.com) was reading the bio autobiography of Keith Richards on a device and fired up Google Earth to see what moors really looked like, that was a twitch (and possible place for a tourist ad). As more Twitch Point Planning exampled come up, I will share. Unless you beat me to it. Peace

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One of my first insights as a young planner while working at Poppe Tyson on a brand called Ravensburger, maker of wooden puzzles and educational games, was the insight that competitors who were flooding the market with what we called “junk games” borrowed from the term junk food. 

Some might disagree with me on this, but I’m afraid a good deal of the products we consume today can be classified as junk. Products for most of the populace are not build to last. Clothes, sneakers, outerwear purchased for under ten dollars at discount stores start unraveling on the way home. But what the heck, they didn’t cost anything.

Carlota Perez, an economist interviewed by Fred Wilson at Web 2.0 last year, says the way forward for our planet is to make products that use less raw material, last a long time and can be serviced by real people earning a wage. This mentality is what I’m calling the Craft Economy.

If we make and consume craft products, we’ll take better care of them.  Craft beer isn’t swilled the way mass market pasteurized beer is.  It’s savored.  Refrigerators that last 25 years, a pair of shoes that are resoled rather than tossed – these are the things of a craft economy. Let’s lose disposable everything. Razor blades. Paper towels. Let’s use more natural products and think sustainability.

The craft economy is coming. And as a trend it will grow faster as economists start building cases for the inherent savings. More Etsy, less junk. Peace!

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Yesterday was Blog Action Day and the topic this year is food; another important  topic we all too often take for granted. As we do with air and water.

At the end of this month theplanet’s population will top 7 billion. Most of the growth is coming from countries and areas that are underfed, undernourished and under-watered. These areas don’t seen to have fertility problems. Is it possible that making the body work harder to sustain itself is better for the planet than eating French fries, salted snacks and high-calorie things that come wrapped in paper and Styrofoam?

I am an evolutionist who believes there is a very direct correlation between the man, earth and bio-chemistry.  You grow what you sow, so to speak. 

For too long we’ve been a car and fossil fuel country. It has to stop.  Sadly, even the smartest venture capital companies (Google whatstheidea+kleiner perkins) that have taken a stand and opted to jump start green tech have returned to focusing on social media start-ups.  Carlota Perez, a big picture genius, interviewed by Fred Wilson last week said our future is not in technology but in sustainability. She is right.

But food, how do we fix food?  And what will be the incentive.  How do we eat better. Eat less. Eat things that don’t enable diseases?  President Obama knows fixing these two things is the answer, but like Kleiner Perkins he knows it’s a steep uphill effort.  And long term.

According to Chipotle each week 330 farmers leave their land. Farming is a noble business. Farmers tend to get the whole eat well thing.  We can find a way to combine a healthy eating lifestyle and the reduction of fossil fuel (burning) consumption.  That is the mission. That is the future. That will fix much. Peace! 

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The digital triangle, located in NYC, bears three distinct corners.  DUMBO in Brooklyn. SOHO in Manhattan. Union Square, also in Manhattan.

DUMBO is where the coders are.  A youthful tech workforce who live digitally-centric lives, they are smart and have engineer-friendly minds. (A lot of gamer consoles burn out in DUMBO.) It’s a little men and boy heavy.  Union Square is where the money is.  Where the incubators are.  It’s where the DUMBO denizens with entrepreneurial spirit visit with their hands out.  It’s close to NYU and also has a lovely, youthful energy. Parking is expensive in Union Square but the smart money walks the streets.  SOHO is what makes the digital triangle different.  It is where designers, the truly creative and exceptionally beautiful like to call home. They don’t live there really, just work, shop and hang. If you can’t get inspired in SOHO with all its art, nubes, soft tacos, fashion, and vibe, you can’t get inspired.  All these neighborhoods are a subway or bike ride apart and feed off of each other. It is a perfect storm for start-ups.  

Unlike Sand Hill Road (money), its surrounding neighborhoods of Menlo Park, Palo Alto, etc. (tech engineers) and San Francisco (ad people) the Digital Triangle is close but not really connected. The west coast likes campuses. It works but not like the digital triangle. As technology’s pull increases and more and more of the economy is tied to digital commerce, NYC will grow in importance globally and will become a tech capital with no peer. Just ask Fred Wilson. Peace.

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Here’s a marketing challenge:  How do we get the smartest of the smart thinking about renewable energy sources? Michelle Obama has us focused on childhood obesity and is doing a good job. The rest of the government is focused on war and debt and the crisis of financial confidence.  For good measure you can throw in a little healthcare. Sellers of consumer and business goods are “all up” in the digital world trying to leverage Facebook, Twitter and mobile geo services.  Kids are still loving sex, fun and music.

So who is looking out for the planet?  Who is focusing on the fact that we’re literally draining and burning the core of the earth — denuding it of fossil
fuels.  Where’s the water coming from in 5 thousand years?

Pop Quiz.  Name one person in the U.S. that cares the most about the planet? Al Gore is probably the answer. Sad.  Much sad. (God bless him, by the way, but he needs some help.)

Here’s what we need: A VC firm with eyes on the planet prize. Might it be Fred Wilson? John Doerr? Paul Oliver?  Who?  Until that hero emerges, and until the pages of the Wall Street Journal, FT and New York Times start writing about him/her with the alacrity that they use to cover digital tech, we’re screwed. As Thomas Friedman says oil is a destabilizer.  Who is going to step up?  Who dat? Peace!

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I had a great day yesterday thanks to the Internet.  TechCrunch Disrupt was held in NYC again and streamed live. For freezle. Fred Wilson (AVC.com) of Union Square Ventures started things off interviewed by TechCrunch veteran Erick Schonfeld and Fred offered some gems on venture investing.  Union Square has invested in Twitter, Etsy, Disqus, Foursquare, Tumblr and Zynga, lately making Kleiner Perkins appear standing still.

Some Fred thoughts:

  • It’s better to be an anthropologist than technologist in venture capital.
  • Social, global, mobile and cloud are the key trends.
  • We invest in the cultural revolution.
  • We like people who have a deep obsession over a long period of time.

Dennis Crowley of Foursquare was there and smart. Chris Dixon an investor and edge burnisher was a panelist. Michael Arrington, three quarters funny, interviewed his boss Tim Armstrong, CEO of AOL. Between speakers and panelists, there were green room interviews – a very nice touch.  Back in the day (a year or two ago) if you tried to stream something like this, it would have been a herky jerky mess.  Not now.  Not with Ustream. The afternoon was a start-up jump ball in front of other entrepreneurs and VCs, some of which I watched but found to be a bit below the morning program.

The event rocked.  And speaking of rock, in the 70s and 80s in NYC, it was the rock star start-ups who were rock stars.  Now they are tech dudes. The art is different, the drug is Red Bull and the output is hard to dance and hum to — but tech is really bringing NYC back. Plus there was a big East Coast/West Coast thing going at the event, too.

If you can attend next year…or if you can’t but can clear the decks to watch the stream, do it. There’s money to be learned. Peace.

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