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Why Do We Need Apple?

Why Do We Need Apple?


Why we need Apple?

It’s no secret that I’m an avid Apple fan and user-  Apple Ipad, Apple Ipod, Macbook Air and Iphone. I have never been a fan of any other system such as Android, Windows etc, I find them too cluttery and a bit all over the place. My first smartphone was a Samsung Omnia and it was awful. The windows system, then, was in no way as good as the simple Ios from Apples 3G model. So I can safely say I couldn't be happier about Apple’s latest announcements. Why? Because what Apple does affects us all.

There’s a tendency in the tech world- and especially as it relates to mobile OS-es to believe that the tech giants operate independently from each other. Apple makes its products, Google makes its operating system and any overlap is copying at best, and theft at worst. This view fails to take into account a lot of the complexities of how tech operates.


Apple Has the Scale to Reach Millions of Users

Perhaps, the biggest reason that Apple matters is it's distribution scale. Apple isn't the only one who puts good ideas into their products. But making a good phone doesn't matter much if you can’t put it into the hands of the people who want it. Some features (like NFC payments) only really catch on if a lot of people are using them. Apple is one of the few who can put phones into millions of hands.

When Apple launched the Iphone 5s last year, it initially launched in 11 countries, reaching a total of 50 countries by November 1st. This is possible due to the massive infrastructure that Apple has devoted to its one product line.  According to reports, Foxconn- one of Apple’s biggest suppliers- is able to crank out 500k Iphone's per day. Thats a 24-hour work cycle (bogged down with human rights violation problems. Not that this is unique to Foxconn or Apple), but for context, at that capacity, Apple could make 45 million Iphone's in 90 days. One quarter.

Compare this to a recent up and comer: Motorola. After Google purchased Motorola, it made a huge sweeping overhaul to its management team and cranked out a product that, while not impressing spec geeks, was still more than good enough for most people. Allegedly, it sold 500,000 in 90-days. Even if those sales numbers are inaccurate, though, Motorola itself claimed it's Texas facility-home of the customised Moto maker handsets- could only make 100,000 handsets per week. For context, for a 90-day period that would be roughly 1.28 million units. Thats still about 43.72 million units behind Apple. Motorola pioneered customisable hardware which could have shaken up the mobile industry, but because it couldn’t  deliver that to more than one country at launch, almost no one noticed.

Samsung is the closest non-Apple products to have the same scale. In Q2 2013, Samsung pushed 71 million smartphones, compared to Apple’s 31.2 million over the same time frame. Not all of those are flagships but the fact remains that Samsung is the only Android manufacturer that can compete in this arena.

To push a new type of consumer tech, you need consumers to actually use it. Unlike fan favourites such as HTC or Motorola, if Apple wants to make a device popular, it has the means to do so. Retailers need a reason to upgrade their systems to support NFC payments. Apple can give them 45 million new reasons every quarter. No matter how much their fans like them, HTC and Motorola can’t do that.

Apple Has the Cool Factor to Gain Mindshare

Whether you call it high quality hardware or reality distortion field, the fact is that Apple makes products that millions of people really love. Not everyone, but enough. Enough people, at the very least, to nudge consumer mindshare into a direction Apple chooses. Like wearing a computer on your wrist.

We saw this happen to a certain extent with voice commands. Despite Google now being just as good as (and sometimes better) Siri, the latter is the one that became a brand unto itself. Voice command jokes maybe useless, but they give, what is otherwise just a smartphone feature, personality. Simply put, no one’s asking whether or not some day we will have meaningful relationships with Google.

Does this mean Apple is the only one making cool features? Definitely not. But fashion matters in tech. Arguably, Google Glass’s biggest failure from what I have seen personally and read isn’t the tech, or its practicality, or even its oddly invasive camera. It’s that Glass simply just looks silly. Maybe it shouldn't be. People wear glasses in their every day to day life. But when you attach a bright orange camera to someone's eyeball, it puts people off. Coolness matters and, for the time being, Apple is still pretty damn cool.

Wearables is another big area where coolness is going to matter. Smart watches have been around since before the pebble, but they still have the perception of being very silly. There are no guarantees in tech, but Apple may just be able to make the smart watch cool. The category certainly needs the push, and after the announcement of the Apple watch, they might have gotten it. Not only will it become more socially acceptable to wear them, but Android users will probably have more (good) models to choose from if it catches on.

Apple’s monopoly on cool isn't totally absolute, of course. Google’s software design has arguably become much, much cooler in recent years. Bigger phones have become cool enough for Apple to follow suit. But Apple does still have a lot of cool collateral in its coffers. More importantly, as stated before, it has the manufacturing capacity to back it up. Quite frankly, despite pushing the same number of units, Samsung doesn’t have the same fashionable factor. This puts Apple in  a unique position, particularly in terms of appealing to a key, influential demographic.

Gold Iphone 6

Apple Has a Wealthier Target Demographic.

Apple products aren’t necessarily overpriced. They’re just expensive. The same goes for the price of a good quality laptop from a different manufacturer.

The difference with Apple is that “expensive” is the only price point they reach. There’s no budget iPad for £200. The cheapest Mac you can get is £899. The lowest price for a laptop is £749. The new Apple Watch will cost around £250 for the smaller screen watch, which is nearly twice the cost of the early Android wear devices. For any other company, this would be suicide. In fact, for Samsung's smart watch, it sort of was.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with this approach, but it means that Apple necessarily excludes poorer demographics (and countries). The Moto G is sold in foreign markets where a £600 phone is prohibitively expensive. In fact, arguably, Android was only able to get to where it is today because it’s able to cater to more than one price point or type of market.

“Android is popular because it is cheap, not because it is good.”

With exclusionary prices, though, comes status symbols. And status symbols, by their nature, are more often owned by the wealthy. Money shouldn’t necessarily buy influence, but it often does. Businesses with cash to spend will invest in technology they think is worthwhile.

Countries with more money will determine what devices will become more popular. That is why the US and China are important first launch markets, while Haiti doesn't come up too often in conversations about mass market appeal. It’s callous, it’s insensitive, it marginalises some groups, and it’s true. People who sell things need to find people with money to buy things in order to survive. And Apple, by its very nature, appeals to people and businesses with more money.


COMPETION-1.jpg

Competition Matters, and Apple Is the Biggest we Have

None of these factors are exclusive to Apple. However, the just-right combination is pretty rare. This means  that, even if you don’t use a single Apple product, the company probably has some influence over the technology that you use. Android wear, as an example, might be an excellent product. But without a company like Apple to make wearables fashionable, it’s not entirely certain if they would catch on. They’ve certainly struggled so far.

Not to mention, there’s other little competition. Without Apple, the entire Android world might get over run by Samsung (arguably already has). Without Apple, there’s almost nothing competing with Windows. Without Apple, the “who’s better than who” discussion will die out almost entirely. Even if you hate Apple, that rivalry drives us to do more.

That type of competition will always drive companies to out-do and borrow from one another. It’s possible that Android wouldn’t have worked on Project Better if not for Apples smoothness, in the same way that Apple might not have made its own notification shade following Androids lead. One lends itself to the other. It’s the circle of competition, and we’ll all benefit from it.

Of course, no one’s saying Apple’s the only one that drives competition or the only one who comes up with the ideas. But it does popularise many of them. No one is giving credit solely to Apple for inventing all technology. Just because Apple prefers a walled-garden approach to tech, though, doesn’t mean it actually lives in one. 

 

 

 

Links to Resources 

http://appleinsider.com/articles/13/11/11/apple-store-sales-fall-3-as-iphone-ipad-distribution-network-grows

http://www.apple.com/pr/library/2013/09/23First-Weekend-iPhone-Sales-Top-Nine-Million-Sets-New-Record.html

http://appleinsider.com/articles/13/11/27/foxconn-building-500k-iphone-5s-units-for-apple-per-day-with-nonstop-production-lines

http://www.cnet.com/uk/news/motorola-to-shutter-texas-factory-building-moto-x/

http://www.dailytech.com/Motorolas+Moto+X+Assembly+Plant+in+Texas+to+Close+by+the+End+of+2014/article34986.htm

http://www.theinquirer.net/inquirer/news/2352262/samsung-warns-of-poor-q2-due-to-slowing-galaxy-s5-sales

http://bgr.com/2013/07/23/samsung-smartphone-sales-q2-2013-iphone/

http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2014/oct/02/apple-watch-smartwatches-and-the-wearables-fashion-gap

http://www.style.com/trends/fashion/2014/fashion-tech-problem-silicon-valley

https://www.apple.com/uk/

http://www.pcpro.co.uk/features/389782/apple-ios-vs-android-vs-windows-8-whats-the-best-compact-tablet-os

http://uk.pcmag.com/tablets/3869/feature/how-to-choose-the-right-tablet

http://www.knowyourmobile.com/mobile-phones/apple-ios-8/22240/ios-8-vs-windows-phone-81-best-bits-both-examined

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ben's Journey || First 6 Weeks at Beach.io

Ben's Journey || First 6 Weeks at Beach.io

Ben Schofield is a 23 year old adventure sports fanatic. From December 2013, Ben has started a new career in digital technology, startups and entrepreneurship. Follow this blog as Ben writes about his experiences, learning a new industry from scratch as an Apprentice to @r3trosteve

So on December 1st 2013, I quit my job within retail to start an "Apprenticeship"  with my eldest brother,  Steve at Beach (formerly Double Digital).

A long road ahead - learning, creativity, tea and coffee making and more learning. Where my brother is today, 3 years on after leaving his full time job, having increased his wealth of knowledge within the technical side of web design, creating, building, consulting and coding, and where he is today, is where I would like to hopefully be in the next 3 years. 

This meant I was going to have to throw everything at this, if I wanted to succeed and to prove to  Steve that I am able to make it profitable to have me working for him, I would have to load my brain with the necessary  tools that he uses to do his job and to do it well. 

 

Project Administration

So, first things first, Steve handed me the responsibility of his admin duties, uploading data from his project expense reports into the billing service which Freeagent offers. I have found Freeagent to be a fantastic program to follow the progress of our developers, most of which work overseas; its an easy way to log their work hours, and to keep a record of outgoing expenses and bills to clients. Social media plays a huge part of Beach, so using Hootsuite, which is a great program to have when you have multiple social media pages for various logins, which you can control all from page, so uploading relevant topics about social media, digital media to the Double Digital (@steve: Double Digital is in the process of being rebranded as Beach.io, references to both maybe used interchangeably) Facebook, twitter, etc, I found that I could kill too much time looking for a topic to use, so I needed to cut down on time spent looking through blog pages and websites to find sourceable information. 

@steve: distraction is a productivity killer. You need to be very disciplined, especially when doing research for social media or a project. The web is there to suck you in. Maintain a focus on your objectives and stick to strict time allocation for each task.

 

A few Programs I am using a lot are Elance, Odesk, Transparent business, Hubstaff and Freeagent. The first three are which we use for our developers so they can record their timesheets for us to see, to make sure that they are working their hours, on track with project deliverables and so we don;t have to keep interrupting them with constant status updates. They're very simple programs to follow, as it gives you the week and their total hours worked, which you can then go into a single day to see the daily hours where i need to then input that into Freeagent. I use Freeagent to input their timesheets so that when he need’s to, Steve can pay them. The only problem that I found, is when you click onto the developers work that they have been doing, its hard to see what the topic is, as i need to put a task into Elance, it can make it hard, so hopefully now the developers will start labelling their work to make it easier for us to see what task there on. 

@steve: Great point Ben. I need to ensure that there is a balance between accuracy of the data captured and balanced to ensure that it’s not getting in the way of the developers. It was easier when I was doing the admin work myself as I generally know what’s being worked on, but this isn’t scaleable and so more diligence in stating current Job Number, Job Title and Task in time tracking reports is necessary. I’ll raise this with the team.

 

Web Design Basics

Steve set me up with his Lynda.com Training site, This is a fantastic site to learn anything on the computer, my first training course was the HTML essential training course, this showed and taught you the basics of coding a website from scratch, It made sense to me that while learning how to code and build a basic website I may as well build something in which I could use in the future. Within this I found it’s very simple to make a mistake, in which it could cause the whole website not to work, so it was important to make sure you had all the correct coding in place, for example:

<h1 class="LR-site-title" style="display: none;">SILICON BEACH Labs</h1> <!-- This is correct. -->
<h1 class="LR-site-title" style="display: none;">SILICON BEACH Labs<h1> <!-- This is not correct. -->

In this example I have forgotten to put in the forward slash at the end of the closed tag, this is telling the website that it isn't closed so wouldn't format the heading. This shows it is important to make sure your work is neat, colour coded, and formatted correctly in order for your coding to work correctly.

@steve: Colour coding will be done automatically via your text editor, such as Sublime Text, which you are using. But, paying attention to the colour coding patterns will help you identify issues in your code. Formatting your html is also very important, particularly in static sites where you may end up with lots of html code in a single document, making it hard to read. A nice article here

 

From this HTML course I moved onto Essential CSS training, which I was looking forward to as design, art and graphics are what I enjoy most. To be able to learn how to format and design my page into how I would like it to look was very interesting and meant I was able to play around with photoshop, illustrator, and After effects.

 

Throughout the learning of html they kept referring to a “stylesheet” which they had not explained and I didn't know why I didn't have a stylesheet - this confused me. I then learnt that while building your html you start to build up a stylesheet in which you can use to make formatting your pages similar otherwise you would have to go through every page of your site and format the coding, whereas if you have a stylesheet it will make all the headings the same, the paragraphs the same, etc etc. 

So for example: 

class.mega-title h1 {
padding: 0;
margin: 0;
font-size: 40px;
font-weight: normal;
font-style: normal;}

@steve: can you amend your above example to valid CSS please. Check class selector . notation and remember to close it properly.

This is just some example of formatting in CSS, this says that all H1’s should look like this, which you can easily go into padding or font-size and change the value off.

Marketing Essentials

I have also briefly been looking online marketing essentials on Lynda.com, The marketing funnel is a consumer focused marketing model which illustrates the theoretical customer journey towards the purchase of a product or service. 

 This an example of the Nutribu funnel that I created this to show how many installs, register, and profiles are being generated through our app, out of screen is a table to show figures. I will be looking creating some Facebook and Google ads as well as some A/B testing.&nbsp;  A/B testing is where you send out either 2 of the same emails, newsletters, or something similar but you may only change one factor, that could be a “Click here” button to a “Press Here” button or “Sign up now” to a “create profile” button, you would then send the two out to your client base and see what gets a better response.  I am currently still working through the course for essential online marketing tools, and will come back to add more about this in the near future.&nbsp;     GRAPHIC DESIGN FUNDAMENTALS  My favourite thing to be doing is being creative, whether that's with a pen and paper, or painting, so I really wanted to get to grips with Illustrator, Photoshop and After Effects, so once again I found myself back on the Lynda.com website on each other essential learning courses, taking notes where I thought was appropriate to help me learn. I have past experience with Photoshop, I dabble with it now and again on my Ipad, and computer but never have I got looked fully in depth with the program, I look forward to continue to grow and expand my knowledge of these 3 programs to help me progress in my career, creating me more work opportunities in the near future. The most difficult thing I find at the moment within Illustrator is when drawing paths, I find it difficult to remember where the anchor points should be, and and which direction to drag them to create a curved line.&nbsp;  Overall, the last 6 weeks has been a real eye opener for me, I am thoroughly enjoying the learning and find it very mind stimulating, However I will look forward to some extra work from either Sergio or Nuno, which will increase my wages.&nbsp;

This an example of the Nutribu funnel that I created this to show how many installs, register, and profiles are being generated through our app, out of screen is a table to show figures. I will be looking creating some Facebook and Google ads as well as some A/B testing. 

A/B testing is where you send out either 2 of the same emails, newsletters, or something similar but you may only change one factor, that could be a “Click here” button to a “Press Here” button or “Sign up now” to a “create profile” button, you would then send the two out to your client base and see what gets a better response.

I am currently still working through the course for essential online marketing tools, and will come back to add more about this in the near future. 

 

GRAPHIC DESIGN FUNDAMENTALS

My favourite thing to be doing is being creative, whether that's with a pen and paper, or painting, so I really wanted to get to grips with Illustrator, Photoshop and After Effects, so once again I found myself back on the Lynda.com website on each other essential learning courses, taking notes where I thought was appropriate to help me learn. I have past experience with Photoshop, I dabble with it now and again on my Ipad, and computer but never have I got looked fully in depth with the program, I look forward to continue to grow and expand my knowledge of these 3 programs to help me progress in my career, creating me more work opportunities in the near future. The most difficult thing I find at the moment within Illustrator is when drawing paths, I find it difficult to remember where the anchor points should be, and and which direction to drag them to create a curved line. 

Overall, the last 6 weeks has been a real eye opener for me, I am thoroughly enjoying the learning and find it very mind stimulating, However I will look forward to some extra work from either Sergio or Nuno, which will increase my wages. 

From Startup to Stay Up - Bournemouth Uni EBC Event

From Startup to Stay Up - Bournemouth Uni EBC Event

Tonight I attended what I hope to be the first of many more local events aimed at Entrepreneurship, Technology, Business, Startups & Digital Media. This particular event, held on the 7th Floor of the Executive Business Center of Bournemouth University, fits into the category of general business advice.

Steve Taylor talks about his theory of Systematic Business Innovation, a subject that he has covered alongside well known startups & creative industry organisations like NESTA, Creative England & the British Council in helping entrepreneurs throughout the UK and in developing economies such as China and India.

The talk itself covered a lot of general issues faced by all new business owners, without focus on any specific category or industry sector. Though, Steve was explicit in defining the particular stage of company, characterised by the number of employees, where he particularly specialised.

Start Up to Stay Up - 10/12 employees

Stay Up to Grow Up - 30 / 35 employees

The Startup to Stay Up phase of a company (hence the name of the event) is where Steve concentrates his expertise and experience. It is at this stage where signals of stress on the company will culminate in the prevention of growth - something that Steve says can be overcome through a strategy for Systematic Business Innovation.

The key steps towards such a strategy, in Steve's words are;

  1. Benchmarking - a real and honest look at the business' position today.
  2. Draw your Vision - the ability to visualise your vision in a graphical format
  3. Build an Integrated Roadmap - a systematic view of the business and interdependencies e.g. see Disney example
  4. Bake Innovation Skills into the Management Team - the learning process of innovation skills 
  5. Apply Innovation Across Business Model & Engine - treat the innovation of business processes in the same way you did the original idea / product / concept
  6. Get Management Information Flowing - real, useful business data (which many companies just don't have or use) is imperative to quality, innovative decision making.
  7. Develop the Entrepreneur's Business Skills - As the business grows, the demands on the entrepreneur means that often the need to grow business management skills outpaces the actual growth.
  8. Develop a Senior Management Team - A top level strategic cluster that can effectively step out of the operational activities and apply strategy in the face of the day to day demands of the business.

Now, I know I've missed or consolidated some of the main points, but I think illustrates it well.

 Braindu Chart of notes, links and additional sources.

Braindu Chart of notes, links and additional sources.

My opinion on the content of the talk was that it was a bit fluffy, in general, skirting around areas which could have been better served with real examples, definitive and specific applications of the theory instead of vague associations. Not sure if this was due to client confidentiality reasons (Steve is, I gather, a paid consultant), a dumbing down of the content for an incorrect perception of the audience or just room for improvement next time.

The Q&A was a little cringe worthy as Steve struggled to answer with clarity and conviction, and instead resorting to slightly off topic answers that didn't really address the question asker's need.

Nonetheless, done so in a light hearted and not too dissatisfying way, in that the general underlying subject of the talk provided some significant value - being able to step outside the day to day of the business, visualise and communicate a vision, create a strategy towards that vision that can galvanise a small company to work towards a cohesive, common goal (albeit a very fluid and iterative one).

My feeling is that a day's session with Steve would be very useful to get a crystallised sense of your vision or make you realise just how different the path's of you and your co-founders are on. Be warned.

My Event Score:

Venue ****

Refreshments ***

Content **

Networking **

Double Digital - Brand Refresh

In some spare moments over Christmas (there really weren't that many), I took the opportunity to give my "freelance services / boutique consultancy" website a bit of a facelift. First thing was I've moved to a new URL - www.doubledigital.co, from the previous domain of www.doubledigg.com.

home.jpg

It's weird, because I actually have very little to say about name itself - other than Doubledigg was always short for Double Digital.

When I recall back a few years, it started as an attempt to build a kind of freelancers platform, similar to elance or freelancer, but using the globally sourced developers, designers, seo-ers, administrators and researchers that I had personally vetted - worked with, trained, developed, learned from and gave experience to - and make them available to a network of my own.

I didn't really persevere with it, because I preferred to work closely with my global remote-based teams rather than just stick profiles on a system and let people dive in and help themselves. It's very difficult to make remote working work well - there's lots of horror stories which I'm sure you've heard before and have scared you off of outsourcing to places like India, Russia, China, the Philippines, Vietnam, Argentina... well let me tell you that it's because people don't understand the process, the mindset, the compromise.

Truth be told, the other reasons I went for the name Doubledigg at the time were kind of funny. First, Digg.com (remember that?) was kind of a big deal then and I though the similarity in the name could piggy back some sort of brand association, misguided searches, that sort of thing. 

Also, my friends at the time had just started out in business on their own - a retail marketing agency (and I must say, they've done brilliantly since - if you are responsible for creating stores with wow factor, you should give them a call), called Double Europe. I figured, if I built something remotely interesting, they may want to buy it or bolt it on to their business some day (still waiting for that to happen).

Anyway, when I started consulting and doing work for clients, building websites, SEO, strategy, project management, I just used that name as the website was already setup, I had built a bit of a Twitter following and Facebook Fan page like-count, so just stuck with it. 

Is it the best name in the world? No, sadly it's not.

Do I care? Not really. I have thought about rebranding to something really cool like my friend @fuel-digital or the guys @riothq, but what the hell. What about some of these names? Could I name it after someone who screwed me over like the guys at THE BANK did? or what about HIGH HEELS & BANANAS? Or hang on, what if I was to name my office the Embassy of the Republic of Moosylvania?

But, what is cool?

Well, I decided to make a statement. I've spent too long on the train back and forward to offices in London, not really existing here or there. Well, I decided to sing loud and proud, I live and work in a stunningly beautiful part of the world which I take for granted. Super talented photographer and friend Jake Moore has given me the ability to not forget that fact, by providing some glorious images of the surrounding area where I get to come home to, from wherever I've been travelling.

portfolio.jpg

There's a pretty cool portfolio section, which I'll flesh out and add some more details too the case studies in there shortly (just images for now), but there's some more in depth write ups on this site in the Projects & Portfolio sections in the meantime.

Anyhoo, that's done. Back to saving the world (or at least the economy) from Information Overwhelm!!!

Braindu - Collect, Organise and Share Information to Learn.

Well, I thought it was about time I show you what I've been up to for the past 6 weeks or so and I'm very excited to show you because it's been one hell of a ride.

Ever since I wrote this post, updating you on the changes at MySpareBrain, it's been all about the new project. Braindu was born.

The Braindu Product Website

Braindu continues and builds upon the work I was doing previously, but takes a more refined and targeted approach to providing a platform for collecting, organising, managing an sharing information - not only as an individual, but collaboratively.

The key here is balancing features and functionality with simplicity & elegance of design - a constant trade off that we must remain cognisant of.

I'll follow up in more detail about some of the new technologies, new features and functionality as they are added, as we build up to a more publicly accessible product launch. But here's a little teaser of the new application's core interface.

Building a Startup Team - Build a better you.

You may have heard me explain my philosophy for building teams before. If you haven't, it's fairly simple.

Identify the resources I need, define & allocate roles and then hire people that are better than me to fill those roles.

As a startup entrepreneur I know that at the beginning, I need to fill multiple roles and show competence, heck even some degree of excellence, at more than one of them at a time. This applies to design, sales, marketing, finance or product development - all of which I have done myself or recruited/outsourced for.

I also have a clear understanding of where my abilities do not come up to scratch and I am very cognisant of my shortcomings. So, hiring for some roles has been easy, such as in engineering for example, as the benchmark I set was pretty low.

It was only 4 years ago that I didn't have a clue how to create a website. I shudder at my lack of knowledge as I blindly blundered my way into building a social network with only my passion for adventure sports and ability to learn quickly to guide me. 

It wasn't hard to find someone better than me then, in fact anyone was better than me.

But since that time, I've progressed. I've built things. I've built teams that have built things. I've learned so much that has helped me understand the difference between a good developer and a great developer. Who can build products, who can do tasks, who can create and manage infrastructure. These are all potentially different people.

So, I have tried to be a better non-technical founder. I've tried to be interested in technical issues and understand the background processes to making technical decisions. I've been trying to learn to code. I've experimented with lots of different languages, markups, libraries and frameworks. I am still a master of none, and I don't intend that to necessarily change (at least currently).

If I am working with clients, I want the solution to fit the need, not to fit my own limited abilities. If I'm working on an internal project, I want the project to further my understanding of different technologies, not labour on perhaps my outdated and under utilised knowledge of a specific technology.

But, whilst many techies may believe a little knowledge to be more dangerous than beneficial, I have certainly found that a broad understanding of technical principles, scripting languages, markups, processes and methodologies has helped me in a few key ways.

  • Raising the benchmark for team members - as I improve, so does my team and knowledge of building teams and recruiting specialist talent.
  • Embracing new technologies - my naivety has proved successful in opening up new pathways that may not have been obvious before, rather than the (often frustrating levels of) fear that more established devs may have of new tech (I've seen it).
  • Building relationships - The improvement in my knowledge has had a direct correlation to my improved ability to establish and maintain positive relationships with my technical teams. A better understanding of the issues, the challenges, the motivations of my developments teams helps foster a much more dynamic and mutually beneficial working culture.

Resources that have helped me

Codecademy 50th Achievement

I will shortly publish a very full and extensive list of resources that I use, but I find that blog posts really aren't conducive to doing that in a way that is truly useful, so I will avoid it for now. Needless to say, I am working to solve that with my latest project. and you'll be the first to hear about it.

In the meantime, I will share a small milestone with you. I have been playing with Codecademy off and on this year. In typical fashion, I've varied my learning, from the grass roots Fundamentals of HTML, to CSS, to Javascript and in particular, the JQuery library, to the programming language Ruby. I just hit my 50th Achievement on the learning platform, which I think is quite nice. I'm waiting for some more Ruby courses to be released and in the meantime will continue with the Javascript courses.

King's School Winchester - Talk on Work Experience & Entrepreneurship

kings school.jpg

Yesterday morning I was at the King's School, Winchester - a specialist Business school down the road from where I went to university to give a talk on my life experiences, how decisions I have made and how my outlook on work experience and entrepreneurship have guided my life and my career to date.

I wanted it to be an open and honest discussion, a warts-n-all account. I wasn't there to tell these 15/16 year old students that it was easy, that you'd get rich quick. This was all about the realities of being an entrepreneur - having an unquenchable thirst to do something you believe in, take risks, invest your time & energy working alone, making huge sacrifices in the pursuit of your goal.

In Winchester, as is the case in other particularly affluent areas, there is a feeling that a certain arrogance towards work, a complacency towards the realities of post education working life and a certain entitlement on completion of (formal) education that means they don't have to worry about it. That getting a great job is owed to them. Now not all think like this, but the symptoms are there and they need addressing.

When I arrived to what I thought was going to be a small, intimate conversation with a group of a dozen or so students, I was somewhat surprised to be greeted with the entire assembly hall of the WHOLE YEAR!

Not one to shy away from the challenge, I feel the talk went well. There was no heckling, no walking out, no falling asleep. A few laughs (in the right places) and a round of applause at the end. So, not bad.

The presentation deck itself was a very simple Prezi I put together in about 10 minutes the day before, mainly to remind me what I was talking about.

The loose transcript (it was more of a guide than a script and I improvised a bit) of the talk is below, if you're interested...

Intro

I learned to love to learn in June 2001.

I remember it clearly like it was yesterday.

It was a turning point for me, but at the time it was a pretty difficult lesson to take.

I had completed my 2nd year at University, having blagged and skived my way through the course for 2 years - a solid 3rd looking likely. In Yr 2 you had to pass all of your core modules and that was something I was aiming for, except I failed. I flunked one of my assignments, something I really didn't expect and I had to RETAKE! I wasn't so worried about failing, it just seemed pointless that I had to do the essay twice! Instead of enjoying the start of my summer.

I spent time working more closely with my lecturers and found that in doing so, I discovered that I enjoyed the collaborative process of learning, I learned how to structure my opinion in the way that the lecturers required and I aced the retake. I learned that I couldn't avoid research, as I had done throughout my school life.

And then I aced the next essay. And the next one. My dissertation got the highest grade in the whole of my year, across all subjects and was put forward for publishing in the Journal of Sports Sciences. I'd cracked it. What was most important, was that I had learned to fail, to analyse the results. It was my first enlightened taste of validated learning.

I found a way to learn that wasn't in any text book I was given at the time, and wasn't taught.

Fast forward a number of years and I'm still applying those lessons every single day and it's what I want to talk to you about today.

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Who Was I?

In my last year at University, I decided that my goal was to run my own business. My dad had run his printing business successfully for 13 years and I was inspired by him, he worked extremely hard, people respected him. I didn't know what my business would be, but I knew I'd have one. So - I resolved to learn all I would need to in order to be successful, when the time came.

During university, I paid my way by doing various bar jobs and as a security guard - in each case I tried to be the best barman (fastest pint or stacking the most chairs at close down, tackling the most hippies on stonehenge or doing my patrols at Calshot activity centre faster than anyone else).

When I left, I went to help my Dad out, but little did I know how bad it had become, in the Printing industry and for him. My first job as a graduate was to work for no money, for 20hrs a day to save the ailing business and eventually, tell 14 people who'd worked for my Dad for 10 years that they were out of a job. Talk about a baptism of fire.

From there, I set about trying to balance earning a wage and collecting the skills I needed for my goal of running my business. I did customer service, I did account management, I did sales, I did finance. I worked my way up the ladder. 

In 2007 I lost my Dad. I was sat in a factory in China watching these guys churning out MDF furniture to make it look like antiques and I thought, "what the hell am I doing?". My way of coping with the loss of my father was to throw myself in to action sports. Anything with adrenalin. But it was expensive, so I hatched a plan to do it for free. I created a website, and would approach activity providers about joining their activities and I wouldn't CHARGE THEM! I would write up a review, take some photos, interview the business owner... and people were reading it online.

That blog turned into a social network for adventurous people with over 10,000 members. 

So I decided to leave the security of the day job and take a HUGE risk in a new industry (technology) as a first-time entrepreneur.

It didn't work. 4 months in, at the back end of 2009 no-one was willing to invest in a first time entrepreneur working on a niche social network, just as the bottom had fallen out of the world's economy. 

I had enough money to pay the bills for about a month. Do I get a job?

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What Changed?

Before I talk about what happened next, I think it's interesting to reflect on what I learned through all of that. 

1. That actually, it wasn't the be all and end all. It was part of the continued process of learning, trying, failing and trying again. What I learned was how to understand the process better, to think more scientifically about the process. I recommend you read, if you haven't, Eric Ries Lean Startups.

2. All Work Experience is GOOD. If you make it good. What I mean is, just doing any work is only useful if you have a bigger picture. Whether you're just learning how to work in a team more effectively, whether your learning a technical skill, if your learning how to compete, if you're learning how to talk to and listen to clients. There are so many skills to be learned from any work experience that can't fully be taught in school or learned in books. It's important to take work experience seriously and apply yourself, be professional, be critical and learn quickly. 

3. So, logically, we should always be learning. And recognizing what we've learned and how it contributes to our goal. Make that part of your life.

4. Find Great Mentors (and run away from moaners). Finding other people who are excellent at what they do and tucking yourself under their wing will serve you greatly. I've done this throughout my career and learned from experts. Conversely, you will find certain people in the real world who are Eee-ores. Moaners. They bring everyone down and you must avoid them at all costs.

5. Fail Fast. This is something we struggle with in the UK. Or at least, we struggle to accept the first bit (sign of weakness) and we then compound it by battling through because of our fear of failure, and as a result, we take ages to fail and the cost is great. Instead, we must learn to test our hypothesis, try and prove it wrong, then move on.

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Who Am I Now?

I'm still just a little person swimming in a huge ocean, trying to make a difference.

But, I hope I'm getting better at learning how to make a difference through the products I build, the people I work with. 

So, in the words of my dear old mum - Steve, what do you actually do?

Well, I didn't go and get a job when I realised the Social network was not going to work out - I think you could say I had had a taste of freedom, and I liked it. Instead, the people I was talking to about investment liked me, liked how I did things and had companies they wanted help with. So I started consulting, and built a team of web designers and developers. I created an agency in a completely new industry, from scratch. And it was quick enough, that I didn't have to go back into the job market with my tail between my legs.

By doing work for clients, I have much more control over my time and with my team, can now focus on building internal projects that we believe have potential for the longer term. 

I have developed a very simple process for deciding  what these projects could be and whether we invest resources in working on them:

1. Is it a big enough problem?

2. Is the market aware of the problem?

3. Can I add Value (through technology)?

As a result, we are now working on some very exciting projects, including a piece of web software for managing information in a better way and freeing up your brain to focus on being creative and finding solutions to problems, a mobile music app platform for children and parents and a mobile gaming product.

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So Where Will it All End?

Well, we all dream of selling our technology companies to Facebook for $1billion or a huge IPO. Chances are, statistically speaking, that's not going to happen. Chances are I'm going to fail again. And again. But so long as I don't quit when I fail, then one day I'll win. 

No-one owes me anything. I'm not entitled to anything. I wasn't entitled to a job when I left university. I worked for my Dad's business because I had to. I won my next series of jobs by being better than I was at the previous job and proving myself constantly.

It's going to be tough because failing is tough. It's going to be a slog. The hard grind of hours spent on your own, working all hours for no money just for people to tell you your product needs to look more like iOS or someone who's watched too much dragon's den asks you what your 3 year profit forecasts are. All the while spending your own money, borrowing, risking. If I win, it'll be because I made it happen and I'll be richer and happier for it because the plan worked and I have my love of learning and the experiences of working to thank.

{next slide}

Or I'll be asking this guy if he's got a spare cardboard box and a carrier bag I can borrow.

Thank you very much.

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The Realitiy of Building a Startup from Scratch: Aaron Patzer - Mint.com

It's an oldie, but it's a goodie! I can't believe it's over 3 years old now...

This is easily one of the most informative, most helpful, most entertaining insights into planning and building your startup from scratch.

A video presentation by Aaron Patzer, founder of Mint.com who built and sold his company to Intuit for $170m in just a few years.

He talks openly and candidly about the various stages of your business, what your headcount should be (and the mix of roles), what your business goals should be, what your costs should be, how much runway you should have, when you should be looking to raise the next round of finance, what your models should look like.

Aaron presents in a light hearted, honest and genuine way which is clear that as a nerd turned super confident CEO, there is a by product of success that is arguably more powerful than the economic rewards (which maybe great). That as CEO's we develop as individuals to people who are respected and that we can respect ourselves.

Watch the video. Bookmark it. Watch it again. Come back to it later as well.

Creating an Explainer Video: Research

Everyone Wants an Explainer Video

This is the first of a series of posts I'm going to do on the subject of creating an explainer video. To kick things off, I want to share with you all of my resources I've collected on the subject, including:

  • Providers of video explainer production services
  • Loads of examples
  • Pricing (where available)
  • My thoughts and notes
  • Freelancers and independant providers
  • Tips and Techniques
 Click to load the MySpareBrain viewer, and find the Video Explainer Research Tab to load the chart.

Click to load the MySpareBrain viewer, and find the Video Explainer Research Tab to load the chart.

It has to be said, this is a very interesting area of video production, digital communication, motion graphics, marketing - whatever you want to label it.

The rise of the Explainer Video is quite staggering, and has become necessary for anyone with a technology startup to have in their basic marketing toolkit - for new customers, for potential investors, for prospective employees. But, not just technology, real worldy, traditional companies like builders, accountants, solicitors, hairdressers and estate agents are getting in on the act too.

With a very limited budget, every startup entrepreneur will face similar challenges:

  • How to communicate my complex idea in a simple, entertaining and compelling way?
  • How do I afford to get this actually produced - prices and quality in the marketplace vary hugely?
  • Where do I start? - Script, Music, Sounds, Graphics, Animation, Production, Copy, Effects?
  • How do I know the end product will be what I want?
  • I want a viral video - how do I get that? (ha)

I asked myself all these (sometimes dumb) questions and more, and then decided that it was such an important thing to get right, I repeat

to communicate complex messages in a simple and entertaining way 

I would go ahead and learn to do it myself, since the investment I make in myself would stand me in good stead for the future.

So armed with my relatively new found passion for Adobe After Effects (yes, I'm taking this very seriously), some ideas and a new microphone I'm embarking on a mission, and I hope you'll join me in figuring this stuff out...

My 2010 Predictions - Retail, the Internet, LinkedIn, Facebook, Google Wave

OK, so I'm hardly Mystic Meg and I've not really got a track record for predictions of this nature but nonetheless, I'm going to stick my two pennies worth in and talk a little bit about what I think is going to happen in 2010 - a year that will go down in my life story as one of intense activity, personal development and growth (I think I'm maxxed-out at 6'2", so I mean networking growth).

LinkedIn & Twitter

Since I quit my job in November and launched a social media offensive, well, not all that offensive - more mild intrigue, I have managed to convince over 500 people to listen to my personal tweets (@r3trosteve) and about 2000 people to read the tweets of a community obsessed by adventure (@fidgetstick). My Linked In Account has gone from 0 to 150-ish fantastically experienced, high quality professionals from which I have great aspirations for the potential opportunities for collaboration that will arise next year. Rest assured both of these channels will continue to be pressed, pulled, pushed and tested by me in my pursuit of a killer network of like-minded, interesting and often humorous people. 

Next year, I think we'll see these two sites crush it. Yes, I just said crush it. LinkedIn has impressed me a lot as a really valuable professional service with interesting social features being released more and more, and especially with the opening up of the API. I think that as trends suggest social media uptake is growing faster in the older generations, one network which must benefit from this will be LinkedIn. I mean, LinkedIn will mean 1. death of crappy recruitment sites, 2. death of the paper CV, and 3. professionals have NO excuse for not developing their network and personal brand to safeguard their future.

Twitter will be mainstream, no doubt. We'll see member numbers continue to increase exponentially and app developers will continue to create new and intriguing "real time search" apps. The biggest problem will be filtering the hobbyist apps (not saying all are bad) from the one's with a real purpose and a real value. API integration into larger containers will be more prevalent, and maybe they'll regain ground on Facebook connect as the 3rd party user ID system of choice.

Facebook

Facebook's growth will slow throughout 2010. As the behemoth that it has become, this will cause outrage amongst the tweeters and bloggers and they will be signalling the fall of an empire. Especially as Facebook continue to fall foul of suspected mal-treatment of members with the implementation of more initiatives that compromise member security and trust, whilst in the pursuit of all conquering growth and distribution.

Facebook will be the 3rd party ID of choice, why wouldn't they be, as nearly every user of any web site will already have Facebook ID. This in turn will lead to more and more cross platform integration with Facebook, with sites leveraging the Facebook platform, the social graph and other social media technologies to grow their own user base. Less and less activity will actually take place on www.facebook.com and it is this activity that will ensure that the doom mongers eat their apple mouse mats.

Social Media & Retail

Social media will go from a "nice to have" or "really should do but don't have time/don't get it/don't want it" to a "must have" and an integral part of the marketing mix. I came from an industry that for years talked about Point of Purchase being the most successful sales converting advertising medium, way better than the results and ROI obtained from ATL marketing, in particular. We've all heard it: "70% of purchasing decisions are made in-store". Well, this assumes;

1. That purchases are being made in store and;

2. That this isn't changing

In 2010, the consumer will have an idea about what they want to purchase, they'll get a referral or series of referrals from a friend or someone in their network who they trust. They'll go to a store to "feel" the product, play with it, hold it, use it. If they are not sold on service & price (value) there and then and both will have to be damn good to achieve it, the consumer knows they can just go home, hit the web and probably find it for a better price and get it with free delivery to the door anyway.

Well, this is a whole new ball game and Point of Purchase will now become dependant on the integration with social media; in-store collateral referring to fan page polls on Facebook, special interest or niche communities that rate and review products where the members are considered experts. If this is communicated in store and stores get their service levels/pricing mix right, then they could win. So long as they or the brands have continued to invest in live product display and security.

Social Networks

Some large niche social networks are going to crush it next year. 2009  saw the launch of GDGT and that network is going to grow and own the tech gadget community space. Fidgetstick/ with a fair wind and a whole load of game is going to do everything I want it to achieve in connecting adventurous people and helping them get off their backsides and onto the trails, rivers, mountains, beaches and waters around the world. We will see other social networks that will be launched, will grow and succeed in lower tier niches than the really big boys - they will leverage API integration and cross platform connectivity and exploit the social graph to co-exist harmoniously in the land of the giants.

Content

We are going to have content coming out of our ears, it will be produced in droves and we will struggle for a while to cope with the noise and diversity of quality. Social bookmarking will come into it's own, with Digg continuing to grow and cement themselves as the generic bookmarking leader. Entering the circle of value in 2010, will be the niche communities that will assist in the content filtering, sifting through the noise their specific category and enabling the cream to rise to the top. Video will be bigger than ever.

Others to Watch

ODesk - as the message of outsourcing continues to reach farther and farther a field and the providers of these services, especially in the Phillipines and Vietnam, but also India, China and Russia develop their technical, communication and customer service skills, more people will delve in. ODesk will be the platform that continues to lead the way.

Google Wave - so much has been said about the Wave throughout 2009. Far from evolving into the Tsunami we were expecting, Google Wave commentators have been vocal in their scepticism and dissapointment of this revolutionary platform. Well, I think that this could change in 2010. At Fidgetstick/ we're already seeing the value of the collaborative tool that GW represents, allowing us to work as a team with ease from all parts of the world. GW relies on mass participation to be truely valuable. Before this can happen, people need to figure out its value for themselves and Google need to get to work sorting out the bugs and illogical UI features. I have high hopes for this puppy and we will be working on Wave API integration in 2010. 

I am so excited about what 2010 will bring, and this post barely scratches the surface of what I think will be the comings and goings of the world I know over the next 12 months. Please feel free to comment on any of my predictions/insights or feel free to leave your own below. 

Thanks to you all for following my stuff, I really appreciate it and I look forward to sharing an awesome 2010 with you.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

TWIST Episode #33 Review - with Shawn Gold

I've been listening to TWIST (This Week in Startups) since episode 3. I was hooked straight away, using the itunes podcast to listen to or watch the episodes I missed or those I couldn't make live on a Friday night. Watching live is a whole different experience, with the fantastic Ustream.TV technology being deployed to give a really interactive and engaging user experience. 

In fact, for budding entrepreneurs the live forum is a great networking opportunity, as from time to time you connect with someone who may be of value to you. I have built a good number of contacts through the lively and informative Ustream.TV chat room banter, including Ian Thomas, an entrepreneur who pitched Jason in the Shark Tank in episode #20 (the one with Joe Essenfeld, from TechCrunch 50 fame, LocalBacon) and I recently met up with him at a Sprout Up event in London with another TWIST favourite and arguably the best guest to date, the" Wine Guy", Gary Vaynerchuck (the Crush It book launch). 

This episode featured a strange Shark Tank presentation, preceeded by the usual drawn out explaination to the guest about Jason's horrifically disrespectful ordeal at the hands of the "incompetent" Shark Tank production team, in particular, Mark Burnett (who, even though he talks about it every week, Jason manages to conveniently forget his name).

The presentation itself, whilst a little monotonous and monotone, maybe a sign of being overly well rehearsed or well-scripted, was OK (got a ave score 7 out of 10) but it was both a lack of understanding of the actual product and the strange name/url selection that got the fingers typing in the chat room. To be honest, I still don't know what the business idea was so I won't try and explain it in too much detail here. 

Every TWIST show features a special guest and there have been some very special guests to date. This show gave the stage to Shawn Gold, CEO of Cocodot. In general, he was incredibly insightful when he could get a word in edgeways. My favourite comment, which he made literally 2 seconds after I posted the same thing in the chat room, was the importance of API integration for the enhancement of a core product or platform and not to create a single point of failure as a business by building the whole product on an API that could be swept from under your feet on a whim. The reason I liked this? It reconfirms my strategy for our Fidgetstick/ 2.0 launch in February.

The business he presented, a rival to evite, was appealling for a number of reasons. In my opinion and from experience in bespoke printing software platforms, with invites in particular it's easy for templates to look tacky and there is actually considerable skill involved in producing an "off the e-shelf" design that can be bespokely personalised and still look authentic, original and inviting (after all you don't send invites out not to be inviting, do you?). I liked the examples we saw in the show and I think that what is a fairly straight forward business model and technological play, can be enhanced through eloquent execution such as this.

My favourite part if this episode was due to a combination of it's relevance to me right now and the skill involved in securing corporate sponsorship, or pre-emptive advertising before you've even got a product to market. A product that's delivering the first thing every 10 a penny brand or marketing manager will ask - how many hits does your site get? That's right, not how many uniques?, not how relevant is your site to me and my job? Not how can your site make me look good and enable me to reach the people I'm supposed to be reaching? In which lies the key and we were given a fascinating insight into the incredible Biz Dev techniques used by Shawn, to generate funding, income and profit to a fledgling startup with big ideas.

I used to really like the News feature, but I'm sorry Lon, I think you are losing your touch. I don't think you've really recovered from the "I didn't really read it, I just printed it out and ran to the studio without any preparation" escapade. If you read Techcrunch or Techmeme, which you really should if you're considering a career in technology and internet business, most of the stories are a tad "old hat". Maybe it's a little unfair to say that but unfortunately a sign of the times that the news moves so fast. Groupon and their big investment coup was interesting last week and there was nothing new there to talk about. Maybe you could spend a little bit more time on a Friday morning researching the latest interesting stories? Perhaps again, that's unfair, it is a weekly digest after all. Maybe I'll eat my "old hat" for saying so.

This show seemed to run on for quite a while, but didn't feel too long. I think Jason was on fine form today and gave some interesting and contentious subjects their place in the limelight... I mean, how many shows have covered porn ("the porn industry has been dessimmated by user submitted free content!"), lesbianism ("was it BrokeBack?"), Hitler, Stalin, Kim Jong Il, Nazism, Politics ("stupid people make stupid decisions, like voting for George Dubya twice in a row!")*, how Facebook's arrogant CEO Mark Zuckerberg is going to secure the demise of the web. I mean come on! Fortunately for Jason, Scientology got skipped over, as if he had any bridges left to burn! 

Overall, this episode got a solid 8.5 from me. Condense it a little, so I can go to bed before 11pm (especially as you convinced me it would be a good idea to write a blog straight after - roll on 1am!), as I'm off kayaking the River Stour early in the morning (that's right, UK fan club here!) and it would be a 9.5 every time. Keep up the good work #TWIST

 

PS Thanks @Ustream, @Webspy @DNAMail @Audible_com, you rock my world!

*quotes were from memory, probably not wholly accurate, but close enough!

Let's talk team structure for startups

In this two part video blog I talk through how we decided to structure the Fidgetstick/ core team, our peripheral team of advisors and our wider network. This is massively important for new tech startups, especially when you're trying to get going and build a new business while still trying to manage your day job, not having much or any spare capital, and not quite knowing if your idea has the legs to go the distance.

It was so important for us to build a team and network with a wide range of skills, so that we could make up for not having much money, with a willingness and motivation to sweat through it, work long and hard and create something off our own backs, so that when we were ready to go for it full time, we were in a position to do so.

Let me know what you think about this subject.

Starting Fidgetstick or any new Social Network

Fidgetstick 1.0 was launched very softly in January 2009. We created the site at a time when the three of us who were working together on Fidgetstick/ were also working hard through tough economic times, to maintain our busy day jobs as well. This constraint effected many decisions that we made at the time, and these decisions are the same that everyone who is just starting out with a new technology venture will have to make. 

  • How will your team be structured? 
  • What technology will you use? 
  • How will you make the best use of your time? 
  • Where will you get your moolah and how much do you need?


So, our launch product was in effect, a summary of all our decisions, based on our constraints at that time. This was often a compromise against the bigger picture, the vision that I had for this new community. In the next few video blogs, I'm going to talk about some of these subjects. I'm going to tell you what my thought process was, what decisions we made and what we learned from them. What our challenges have been and what they are likely to be in the future. Hopefully, you'll relate to some of these and perhaps can also apply some of our learnings to your next venture. Perhaps you'll also be encouraged to connect with me and check out our community as we grow through 2010.

Video Blog 1 - Team Structure Intro

 

Meet Fidgetstick/ Founder - R3trosteve - An introduction

Here's my first video blog cast (so keep an open mind!), which I've split into two parts. I skirt around the things that drive me as an entrepreneur, from family stuff to work related. I wanted to share my thoughts and motivations that guide everything that I do so that I can reach other people who maybe going through the same issues, such as alcoholism, cancer, life change.

In addition, I try and get across how all of these things led me to form a community of people, to which life has a special meaning; to be adventurous, active and challenging through adventure sports participation and trying new things.

Have a listen, to both parts if you can bear it. I'd love to hear what you think and

As most of those crummy TV channels say..."If you are effected by any of the issues contained in this video blog" .... well, get in touch. You know how and I would love to help if I can.

The dawn of a new era - R3trosteve flies the nest

A momentous occasion in my world, as I have now left the security of a "day job" to concentrate my time, effort and the little cash that I have on evolving, developing and growing my my internet based businesses.

Madman? Crazy? 

Perhaps. But this is now my moment, everything I have been dreaming about since I was a teenager - having the independence, responsibility and freedom to control my own destiny and career rather than relying on the abilities - and often inabilities - of others.

In my mind, this is the perfect time to be starting out. That said, I'm not just starting out. I have created and tested a concept that I believe will work, whilst maintaining by day job, and and am now able to put the learnings from that into a distinct strategic plan for the future. One that hopefully, as the economy climbs out of the sespit it is in, will only serve to strengthen and solidify the work me and my team put in now.

So, what am I working on?

Fidgetstick/ - adventure sports community


The main part of my time over the next 6 months will be spent on the redesign, redevelopment and relaunch of Fidgetstick/ (www.fidgetstick.com). Fidgetstick/ is an online community for adventurous people who love to take part in adventure sports and activities or believe they should be taking part and for whatever reason, can't do it enough, want to try new things or want to improve in different areas.

Fidgetstick/ is a noble gesture, one that stands for something greater than just a quick fix internet business. The team at Fidgetstick/ and our community believes that adventure sports are a symptom of a greater human need - to live a varied and adventurous lifestyle. A lifestyle that involves taking risks, reaching for something big and doing it with the best of intentions.

 

  • Connections - Fidgetstick/ aims to make it really easy and intuitive to connect with people of similar interests - such that those connections assist you in achieving your own adventure goals and those of others. 
  • Participation - On a more macro scale those connections will assist in improving participation - through the forming of social connections and sharing resources such as equipment, knowledge and training. Fidgetstick/ will work tirelessly to breakdown the barriers to participation and retention.
  • Content - Increase in participation leads to an increase in content generation, sharing and distribution - articles, photos, videos, blogs, forums, reviews etc. The valuable content will attract new members through search and viral means, creating a culture of growth and continuous improvement.

 

It all starts with getting out there (in the big wide world) and taking part, mucking in, having a go, challenging yourself and others. Break sweat, scare yourself and then come back and tell the community all about it.

The site will give information through community generated content or provide routes to the best information through the thousands of poor quality sources that exist. Fidgetstick/ will become the first port of call for adventure sports enthusiasts seeking information. 

Fidgetstick/ needs to be a sustainable business entity in order to grow and survive, no question about that. Through the correct setup and planning, we have created a model that doesn't rely on traditional CPM/CPC ad campaigns in order to generate revenue. We have multiple revenue streams available, that can be activated at different stages, according to the growth and development of the site. 

In these early days, it is imperative that our cause gets the backing from the commercial world. Such is the is the potential benefit to our corporate sponsors, we are encouraged and deeply grateful for the support we have received so far - but it can't end there. If your company wants to get behind our crusade, then now is the perfect time. Contact me for more information about how you can get involved steve@fidgetstick.com. 

I am so excited about what lies ahead for this community and the team can't wait to get the Fidgetstick/ 2.0 site out there. We've had a lot of positive feedback about the current site, but this will blow that out of the water in every way.

 

Other Projects 

Well, it's a bit early to goo into any great detail. Needless to say, I will be a busy boy. I am also working on a couple of other projects in the online gaming and traditional marketing services (with a twist!) industries. Watch this space for more updates.

So, there we go. All change in my world - what's going on in your world? I would love to hear your thoughts on what I've done, am doing and what you plan to do to live a more interesting, varied and personally gratifying life. Hit me back!

 

R3trosteve