Interview with Cheryl Reynolds, CEO of SODA Inc, Hamilton’s Business Incubator and Accelerator

I’m on a mission to establish a Business Incubator in Tauranga next year.

Part 1 of this mission is to learn from people who have already succeeded.

So last week I spent an amazing, inspiring, uplifting 3 hours with Cheryl Reynolds the CEO of SODA Inc and Rachel Wark, the Communications Manager (thanks for making so much time for me guys!).

As a bonus I brought my good friend Alistair McMahon with me who shares my passion for start-ups and marketing.

Wow. What an incubator. They have achieved so much in just 3 short years and 3 days (their birthday was last Monday).

Here are my notes about SODA Inc.

What is SODA Inc?

  • SODA Inc is a fusion of incubator/accelerator + cluster
  • The cluster is a fusion of StartUps and Existing Industry
  • Lesson for me: I think that sometimes existing industry can see StartUp’s as nimble, agile threat’s that are determined to steal business from them, so I love to see that SODA is working at bridging the gap between startups and existing industry and pointing out the opportunity for both

Empowering story’s everywhere

  • The SODA Inc identity is fused to the building and it’s rich history as a soda bottling plant in the 1900
  • Each company which has been carefully selected to be included in the incubator has a story: a history, a present, and a future
  • One tenant of note is Alistair Grigg, COO of Xero. Alastair oversees all aspects of Xero product development and service delivery, from design to customer support, but from Hamilton where he chooses to live with his family. How 2012 is that??
  • Lesson for me: Make sure I have a story to tell. People love stories, they identify with stories, they believe stories.

There is a empowered women component:

  • It starts with in the 1870’s when Mary Jane Innes seized control of the brewery business, from her inept husband and made it a roaring success
  • Cheryl herself her started planning SODA 8 years ago and now runs it
  • And now Rachel Wark as the communication’s manager
  • Many of the incubated businesses are either women run and women led
  • Lesson for me: About damn time. Hooray for the end of the male dominated business sector

A beautifully designed and modern space

  • The design of the space is a fusion of open plan but partitions/cubicles to provide a workspace you can call your own
  • No doors, but doorways for a distinct feeling of territory (good for minimising distractions)
  • Lesson for me: The “wow” factor is so important. It’s essential to create a space that has form and function and design so the residents feel good, but also it needs to impress the daily visitors

It’s hard to get in. It’s harder to stay in

  • Cheryl: “We are not for profit, not for loss”
  • The entry criteria is very strict, and must be so. All incubated companies must have exceptional stories, exceptional growth potential, and with a global expansion focus
  • If an incubated company doesn’t double it’s key metric every 6 months they are out
  • Lesson for me: I love that! It keeps the residents motivated to push forward and the SODA team/mentors to push forward too 

Who funded it to get it off the ground?

  • Once the company was formed, the Hamilton Council donated the space
  • Wintec provided initial funding for the fit out
  • NZTE approached SODA and now the programmes are NZTE accredited
  • Lesson for me: An interesting hybrid between public funding grants and private investment

Opened in 2009 but when did the work really begin?

  • pre-2004: Cheryl’s series of successes, failures and exits
  • 2004: Cheryl started planning SODA
  • 2008: Board formed and corporate sponsors in
  • 2009: Open for business
  • Lesson for me: The public only sees the 3 year history when the doors opened, but so much work had to happen to lead up to that point

Building an ecosystem

  • SODA is growing not just a StartUp ecosystem for Hamilton, but for New Zealand.
  • Alongside it’s day to day activities they have a number of initiatives in place that don’t directly contribute to their own key metrics but are happening because they contribute to strengthening and growing the eco-system
  • One such initiative is “SODA Labs”: The CEO’s of 3 external, well established companies (plus 1 wildcard from the incubator) are invited into the room for 90 mins. Often those CEO’s walk out with a long standing competitive dispute resolved or a joint venture. SODA provides the neutral venue
  • Lesson for me: I love the idea of building an ecosystem that benefits everyone

What’s Next?

A visit to Bizdojo in Auckland.

Business Facebook Pages: 6 Simple Tips For Your Business Page on Facebook

Are you just about to set up a Business Page on Facebook?

Or have you set one up already but it’s just not generating business for you?

Then this short list of tips will save you some time and help you generate some results.

#1. Don’t sign up for a new Facebook Personal Profile just for the business

  • You can always tell when people do this because under the business name it says “Add as Friend” instead of just clicking “Like”
  • This introduces strange elements like “Date of Birth” and “Hometown” and “Marriage Status” that just don’t fit. This is because Facebook Personal profiles are for people, not businesses
  • The “Add as Friend” process is odd and cumbersome for your Fans. It creates a barrier that you just don’t need
  • Also, this is a violation of Facebooks Terms of Service that state that everybody on the planet can have one login only and that each personal profile must be a real person not a business.
  • Anyone with a personal Facebook account can set up a business page. If you’re an employee, that’s fine, you won’t be personally identified on the business page, and you can set up additional admins so that when you leave, you can remove your own access and everything still runs smoothly
  • If you’ve made this mistake you can convert your Personal Profile to a Facebook Business Page

#2. Ensure your Cover Photo is the right size

  • Set your cover photo to exactly 851px by 315px
  • If you don’t, then Facebook will do a really bad job of resizing it for you and introduce graininess and “artifacts” around parts of the image (especially any text)

#3. Add a Facebook widget or “Like Box” to your website

  • Don’t be tempted to just add a Facebook icon and link, add a whole widget! Facebook calls it the “Like Box
  • Set the widget to show 20+ fans (the more the better)
  • The genius of this is that Facebook will automatically show the friends of the person looking at the webpage which will encourage them to “Like” you too. That is “social proof” that makes people think “if my friends have liked these guys, I will too!”
  • Turn off the other junk like a stream of message
  • This is the easiest way to get Facebook followers

#4. Get a Vanity Url as soon as you can

#5. Consider Facebook Advertising/Promotion

  • Consider Facebook text-ad advertising. It’s ability to target specific groups of people in your target market is unmatched on the planet. However, people are on Facebook to socialise, not to click on ads so Click-Through-Rates are poor
  • Consider promoting one or two of your posts using the $5/$10 promotion button. This can expose your messages to a huge audience

#6. Use Polls for creating engaging content

  • Polls work really well for getting people talking about 3 or more choices you set
  • Everybody who votes automatically tells all their friends what they’ve done so the word spreads virally

What do you need to make your Facebook Business Page really work for you?

  • Do you need help with the initial set up of each your Facebook Business Page?
  • Do you need someone who can provide you with advice, strategy, techniques, know-how, shortcuts, tips and tricks on how to use various social media platforms to generate results for your business?
  • Do you need training so you can control it all yourself so you don’t need to pay anyone to do it for you?

I know some people who can help with this, so let me know if you’d like to talk to them.

Customer Survey Package

I’m about to show you that with your next customer survey, it is possible to generate satisfaction rather than just measure satisfaction.

Let’s consider the customer’s perspective first.

Do any of the following 3 scenario’s sound familiar?

1. Imagine you have just started dinner and the phone rings…

You pick up and it’s someone asking you to partake in a market research survey.

Do you leap at the chance?

2. Imagine you are out and about and get asked to fill in a satisfaction survey…

You get half way through, does it suddenly occur to you how pointless the questions are?

Maybe it occurs to you “surely they will get so little usable information back they really shouldn’t have bothered!”

3. Imagine you get emailed a link to a survey with a free prize at the end…

So you start it, expecting it to take 2 or 3 minutes, but it turns into a 25 minute marathon, so you rush blindly through the rest of the answers just to qualify for the prize.

And then you get to the end and you realise it’s not a free prize, it’s the chance to win a free prize, so you get angry because you’ve wasted your time for no reward.

And just as bad, you’ve provided them with a useless response anyway because you didn’t even read most of the questions.

Sound familiar? (I’m looking at you Subway).

There are 2 major problems with Customer Survey’s these days:

  1. The customers experience is horrible. Most survey’s are boring and feel pointless
  2. The whole point of them is to provide actionable information to aid business decisions, right? Well, they they fail dismally at that

Well, I have good news for you, there is a better way.

There is a way to generate satisfaction with a survey rather than just measuring satisfaction.

  • Do you want to know more about what turns on your customers?
  • Do you want to explore opportunities to grow your customer base, or sell more to your existing customers?
  • Do you want to identify defects in your service that you can fix immediately?
  • Do you want to be customer-led and pro-active rather than fall behind your competitors?
  • Do you want to take action from the results rather than just file them on a shelf somewhere to get dusty?
  • Do you want to craft questions that won’t bore your clients to tears?
  • Do you want to ask only the most important questions because you know people will get bored if there are more than 10?
  • Do you want to motivate your customers to provide you with full answers rather than tick-the-box responses?
  • Do you want to communicate to your customers that you really care about their responses?

If you answered “Yes” to these questions, then this is for you.

This Customer Survey Package Is Not For You If…

If you already have a good feeling for what your results will be and just want the data to back up your hunch, walk away now.

I have zero tolerance for that crap.

I’ll strip back your questions to the bare basics and give your customers every chance to answer in the way they want to rather than how you or your boss wants them to answer.

This way you’ll actually get results you can take action on, rather than ones that can immediately start to accumulate dust on a shelf somewhere.

Do you need to pretty much copy the questions from previous years so you can show statistical improvement?

Too bad. I don’t care about the past. I just care about how your customers today can help you adapt to the customers in your future.

So leave your past behind and let’s tap into your customers minds and future-proof your business today.

Q: “How Much Does it Cost?”

  • $1800.00
  • No hosting fees

Q: “What’s involved?”

We will start with a short meeting. I will ask you questions such as:

  • What do you want to achieve?
  • What action will you take if the results show x, or y?
  • What questions do you think we should ask?
  • How will you invite customers to fill it in? (eg by email invitation, hyperlink on your website, or advertising)
  • What incentive will you provide for them to fill it in? What’s in it for them? (“Out of the goodness of their heart” will only get you so far)

Geeky Technical Stuff

  • I use open source software. My favourite is Lime Survey (check out the demo) or Google Forms or Survey Monkey
  • If your website is on an Apache server running php and MySQL, I can host the survey on one of your sub-domains eg
  • Otherwise, I will host the survey on one of my subdomains eg, or we could purchase a new domain for your survey if you are really serious

Want to Find Out More?

    Your Name: *

    Your Email: *

    Your Phone: *

    Your Website:



    Market Research Package

    • Do you have your eye on a target market and want to find out what those customers want?
    • Do you want to find out more about the competition (if any) in that space?
    • Do you want to evaluate the risk and determine your chance of success?

    Then consider this Market Research Package.

    Q: “Is this Market Research Package For Me?”

    • Are you thinking about launching a new product or service a little bit outside of your domain?
    • Is the growth curve flat in your industry and you know you need to innovate now to survive/thrive?
    • Thinking of buying out an existing business and want to know what you’re really in for in that market?

    If you answered “Yes” to these questions, then this package is for you.

    Q: “How Much Does it Cost?”

    • $3600.00

    Q: “What’s involved?”

    We would start with a short meeting. I will ask you questions such as:

    • What core competencies are you bringing that make you think you’ll succeed?
    • What drives you?
    • Why are you changing the status quo?
    • Who’s on the team?
    • What human resources do we have?
    • What missing skills do we need to find?
    • What does success look like?
    • Where do you want the business to be in 12 months/24 months from now?

    Want to Find Out More?

    Error: Contact form not found.

    Tauranga 2013: A Business Incubator, A Business Accelerator, And 3 Co-Working Spaces

    Have I shared with you my plan for 2013?

    I want to establish a business incubator/accelerator/co-working space here in Tauranga.

    Tauranga’s first co-working space starts this week in the Priority One building, hooray! I’ll be doing my best to help them succeed.

    But that is only the beginning. Imagine there was one business incubator, one accelerator and 3 co-working spaces here in Tauranga. That’s my vision.

    But one step at a time. The first step for me on this journey is research.

    Research into what has worked well and what hasn’t.

    I don’t want to re-invent the wheel. I want to learn from the mistakes of the past. I want to learn from the best.

    First up is Grind in New York.

    8 quick facts about Grind co-working space in New York:

    1. Open plan floor + hot desks + lockers + bookable meeting rooms
    2. Free, high quality coffee
    3. “Frictionless” membership and entry into the building
    4. A “wall of awesome” that celebrates and showcases successes that Grind members have had
    5. Existing members invite new members
    6. Furniture chosen for its sustainability and low-environmental impact
    7. Coming soon: “the agora. In the future we’ll be rolling out tools that encourage Grindists to tap into the skills of other Grindists.”
    8. Cost: US$500/month membership (of US$35/day)

    Lessons for me:

    • A very cool name. A combination of “the daily grind” in an ironic sense + a reference to coffee that black liquid that wakes us up and we meet over
    • It’s simple/spartan and uncluttered: A big open plan floor with desks, office chairs and couches. But…
    • It doesn’t feel like a temporary place with a short lease. It feels permanent. I thought I could start with a cheap 12 month lease somewhere but now I’m thinking that might be a mistake

    More co-working spaces for me to check out

    Want to Help?

    • I’ve started a list of people who share my vision and want to help. Want to join this list? Say so in the comments below

    The Lean Startup: How Constant Innovation Creates Radically Successful Businesses by Eric Ries

    My notes on “The Lean Startup: How Constant Innovation Creates Radically Successful Businesses” by Eric Ries

    I’ve only made notes on the sections I found most interesting, so to get the full benefit of this book I urge you to read a copy for yourself Continue reading “The Lean Startup: How Constant Innovation Creates Radically Successful Businesses by Eric Ries”

    Have A Great Idea For A Start-Up Company But Worried Someone Will Steal It?

    On Monday you’ll see my notes on the book by Eric Ries called “The Lean Startup: How Constant Innovation Creates Radically Successful Businesses”.

    Amaaaaazing book.

    But I couldn’t wait until then to share this with you.

    There is one section in there that talks about how many of us have ideas that we think are great and could potentially be turned into Start-Up company’s, but we hesitate getting started or even sharing the idea with people because we are worried the idea will quickly be stolen and we will end up with nothing.

    Sound familiar?

    I bet it does.

    You and I both have this fear I’m sure.

    Here’s what Eric Ries has to say on the issue:

    The most common objection I have heard over the years to building an Minimal Viable Product is fear of competitors – especially large established companies – stealing a startup’s ideas.

    If only it were so easy to have a good idea stolen!

    Part of the special challenge of being a startup is the near impossibility of having your idea, company, or product be noticed by anyone, let alone a competitor.

    In fact, I have often given entrepreneurs fearful of this issue the following assignment: take one of your ideas (one of your lesser insights, perhaps), find the name of the relevant product manager at an established company who has responsibility for that area, and try to get that company to steal your idea. Call them up, write them a memo, send them a press release—go ahead, try it.

    The truth is that most managers in most companies are already overwhelmed with good ideas. Their challenge lies in prioritization and execution, and it is those challenges that give a startup hope of surviving.

    If a competitor can out execute a startup once the idea is known, the startup is doomed anyway.

    The reason to build a new team to pursue an idea is that you believe you can accelerate through the Build-Measure-Learn feedback loop faster than anyone else can.

    If that’s true, it makes no difference what the competition knows.

    If it’s not true, a startup has much bigger problems, and secrecy won’t fix them.

    Sooner or later, a successful startup will face competition from fast followers.

    A head start is rarely large enough to matter, and time spent in stealth mode – away from customers – is unlikely to provide a head start.

    The only way to win is to learn faster than anyone else.

    What do you think about this? Does this allay some of your fears? Useful? Not useful?

    Let me know in the comments below.

    Quickguide to LinkedIn Part 2: How To Milk LinkedIn – The 8 Most Important Cows

    (Missed part 1? Read it first)

    Firstly, it’s important to note that “100% completion” is your starting point.

    That’s right, spend a few hours and just get all the basics done and out of the way until you score 100% completion.

    Then come back here and read the rest of this article.

    The 8 Most Important Components (or “Cows”) of LinkedIn For You To Milk

    1. Customise your profile address url

    2. Join at least 10 groups

    • Join a set of groups that paint a picture of your interests
    • Include several dedicated to your city, several to your country, and a few international ones
    • Don’t bother reading the discussions in those groups. Don’t bother starting discussions yourself.  Just join to get the “badges” on your profile

    3. Be creative with your job titles

    • Have some fun with them
    • Poke fun at yourself
    • Be a little outrageous
    • I’ve created a website that lists all of New Zealand hot pools so my job title for that is “Head Hot Hydro Honcho”.
    • Stupid? Yes. Silly? Yes. Entertaining and different that might brighten someones day even for a moment? Yes.

    4. Be creative with your job descriptions

    • Use numbers to made things concrete Eg “Developed 47 business plans, created 53 advertising plans, wrote 54,327 words for newspaper ads”
    • Take a guess at the numbers rather than painstakingly count, and don’t round them off
    • The longer ago a role was for you, the more you should simplify your experience there to a single project, or the biggest impact you made, or a long lasting improvement you made. Tell a story
    • Say something controversial
    • Take a stand on an issue
    • Wake people up
    • For example, in one of my roles I say “When clients come to me for a new website, I don’t give a damn about what they want, I only care about what THEIR customers want.”
    • The worst you can do is be boring. The world is full of boring. Don’t add to it.

    5. Write your summary last

    • Weave together elements of your past, your attitude in the present, and your plans and ambitions for your future

    6. Be the first to connect

    • Every time you meet someone face-to-face (or talk to them for a reasonable time over the phone), find them on LinkedIn and request a connection
    • Do not use the default message which is “I’d like to connect with you”. It requires zero effort and everyone knows it, so it cheapens your effort to connect and looks like spam
    • You could make a reference to how you met, repeat something they said to you, or thank them for a specific piece of advice or an idea they had, or simply say “Hi firstname!

    7. Don’t add people you don’t know

    • If you get requests from people you don’t know, don’t add them
    • They are just playing a game to get more connections than other people
    • And worse than that, by adding them you are “vouching for them” and they may use your endorsement to get to others in your network. Not cool

    8. Write recommendations for people you want recommendations from

    • Testimonials/recommendations are powerful stuff. They help people trust you and get to know you
    • It’s easy to get them, just write them for others and that creates pressure to reciprocate without you even asking
    • I’m not a big fan of pushing the “ask for a recommendation” button, but do it if things are moving too slow for you in this area

    For bonus points (or bonus milk)

    There are a few bonus sections that are a little hidden in the navigation that you could try. Like “Projects” and endorsing “Skills”.

    For bonus points you could start discussions in the Groups you join (I might write a whole blog article just on that one day). A few ideas to start with:

    • Write an engaging headline. Headlines that ask questions are the best
    • Make it short. Articles on LinkedIn are more about generating discussion than you sharing your wisdom
    • Finish the article by asking people to add their opinion or share their point of view

    Do You Use LinkedIn?

    • Did you find this article useful? Say so in the comments below
    • Got value out of other sections I haven’t mentioned? Like the jobs section? Write your ideas in the comments below

    Quickguide to LinkedIn Part 1: What Types of People Are Looking At Your LinkedIn Profile Today?

    Think you should be doing more with your LinkedIn profile?

    First let’s consider your audience.

    Who’s actually going to look at your profile?

    The 5 types of people looking at your LinkedIn profile today:

    1. People you meet who are curious about you

    You might hunt them down first, or they might find you first.

    They will have these kinds of questions on their mind:

    • Might it be useful to connect with this person?
    • Would connecting with them be consistent with the image I’m trying to project? Do they fit smoothly into my network?
    • Can I connect them to other people I know to make me look good?

    2. Employers both past, present and future

    They will have these kinds of questions on their mind:

    • Past: What have they done since leaving here?
    • All: Who are they connected to?
    • All: What do they say about themselves?
    • Future: Are there gaps in their employment history?
    • Future: Do they bad-mouth x-bosses or workmates or workplaces?
    • Future: Are they worth poaching?

    3. Potential clients getting a feel for your experience and skills

    They will have these kinds of questions on their mind:

    • Can I be confident this person will get the job done?
    • What else are they capable of that could be useful?
    • How diluted is their range of services/experience?
    • Do they specialise in what I need them for?

    4. Salespeople who just want to sell you something

    • They may be just trying to collect 500+ connections (this is called “vanity metrics”) in the hope that this huge number will engender trust in them and their services

    5. Uber-networkers who just want to connect with the entire world if they can

    • They are driven to feel important and like to see themselves in the middle of a giant virtual hub

    What Next?

    Tomorrow in Part 2 I’ll share with you tips on how to milk LinkedIn, and I’ll detail 8 cows.

    In the meantime, start to think about how each of these audience groups have different information needs, and which groups are more important to you right now.

    TEDx Auckland 2012: 16 Hours of Awesomeness

    TEDx Auckland ran from 10am to 5.30pm on 6 Oct 2012: 7.5 hours of awesomeness.

    But my day started at 6am because I drove up from Tauranga for it, and got back home at 10pm.

    I’m still counting the 8.5 hours of waiting and driving because those were all awesome too. I was either talking to my car buddy Rachel Tabb from Bubble Interiors about our businesses, family, lives, dreams and aspirations. Or,  chatting to new people we met during the day and catching up with friends.

    I’ve been watching TED videos for a few years now (3-5 a week), but to have the speakers right in front of you, really engages your other senses and drives the content and their message into you.

    We turned up at the event an hour early, which was good because I had left my tickets at home.


    I explained this to one of the key organisers: Elliot Blade and he gave me a ViP ticket.


    This turned out to be awesome because I grabbed a seat in the centre on the front row. Probably the best seat out of the 2075 people there that day.  I was 3 metres from every speaker.

    I met some awesome people sitting in that row: Matthew Bosher, Don Bisset, Johnathan Custance, Lara Custance, and Ben Irving, and caught up with Matty Blomfield.

    This was not an accident. It’s my philosophy that 50% of the value of any event/seminar/conference/expo you go to is the content you are exposed to, and 50% the people you meet before, after, and during the breaks.

    Also, I made a point of spending some time with the organisers because I intend running TEDx Tauranga in 2013 and wanted to make those connections so I can benefit from their experience, resources and connections later.

    On to the TED talks.

    I have broken the 17 speakers into 3 sections:

    1. Freakin’ Awesome
    2. Awesome
    3. Somewhat Awesome

    5 Freakin’ Awesome Speakers at TEDx Auckland

    1. Michelle Dickinson: Nanogirl – My Quest to Become a Superhero

    • Michelle talked about how she likes to break stuff ever since she was a kid to find out how stuff worked. Much to the annoyance of her Dad.
    • She told her story about how she found her dream job – a place where she gets to break stuff all day and never have to put it back together.
    • She told us how technology has given her superhero powers. 2 examples: fly like a super hero with super conductors, and wear an invisible cloak of nano particles to be waterproof.
    • Such a passionate, memorable and entertaining story straight from the heart. Really inspiring stuff.
    • Lesson for me: The most impactful stories are the personal ones delivered with unbridled passion and energy
    • Michelle is a specialist in biomedical materials engineering and head of New Zealand’s only nanomechanical testing laboratory at the University of Auckland.
    • Web: | Twitter: @medickinson
    2. Dr. Paul Wood: What’s Your Prison?

    • Paul talked about how he did a 10 year stretch in jail (often in solitary refinement), but his real prison was his self limiting beliefs. He changed his attitude and rose up beyond his confinement, and with the help of some friends, got a degree, got a masters degree and then started his doctorate before he was freed.
    • Wow. What a personal story. It’s people like this that inspire me to be a better person.
    • Lesson for me: If there is something that truly needs to be done, there is no excuse I can come up that is good enough. Break through confinements and constraints.
    • Paul is a change specialist and founder of Switch Coaching & Consulting. He specialises in industrial, organisational and workplace psychology.
    • Web:

    3. Pip HallWet Hot Beauties

    • Pip walked out on stage in a dressing gown and a few minutes stripped that off down to her togs and bathing cap. She stood there bravely in her middle aged body
    • She told her story how she “found joy” in organising amateur synchronised swimming in the kiddies pool for women between 14 and 70 years old. Any fitness level, any coordination level, all are welcome. There are now 250 in the group
    • Joy is when you feel alive, you celebrate life, when life “clicks”. She encouraged us to all find our own joy and to “lean into joy”.
    • Fantastic stuff. So passionate, so brave.
    • Lesson for me: Start something fun, and a tribe of people who also think it’s fun will form around you. Be vulnerable. Take the risk
    • Pip is a playwright, actor and co-creator / producer of the Wet Hot Beauties. She is a recipient of the prestigious theatre honour, the Bruce Mason Playwriting Award.

    4. Emma Rogan: Inspiration Wherever You Are – The 100 Days Project

    • The idea here is for everyday people to commit to creating something new every day for 100 days along a theme. In 2012 almost 100 people did so, and took photos of what they made everyday.
    • One guy took a video of his son every day.
    • One mother took a photo with her tweenage daughter doing something new everyday (including dressing up as mummies)
    • A 7 year old girl drew a dress every day
    • An 11 year old drew a monster every day
    • Many other charming examples were shared:
    • Endearingly, Emma made no secret that she stole this idea from Michael Bierut. When she asked for retro-active permission he was very happy that his idea had spread
    • Lesson for me: You don’t need a business agenda for everything you do. Starting something just for the hell of it is good for the world
    • Emma is a partner at Auckland design company Apropos and founder of New Zealand’s 100 Days Project.
    • Web:

    5. Paul Cameron: Reinventing Reading

    • Paul has found a way to reverse the disturbing trend of falling book reading rates. Half of of high school graduates in the US don’t read a book again in their entire lives.
    • He has developed a way to add a sound track to stories, this extra dimension improves:
      • Access to inner imagination
      • Brings more emotional engagement
      • Provides immersion not distraction
    • The sound tracks include ambient noise, mood music and sound effects
    • Lesson for me: There is always a way to fix something that’s broken. Find the pain first, then create the solution. Don’t give up.
    • Paul is the CEO of Booktrack, which is his answer to addressing the decline in reading and literacy rates that will help make reading relevant again to a new generation of readers.
    • | Twitter:@pccameron

    8 Awesome Speakers at TEDx Auckland

    1. Philip Patston: The Label Libel – A New Look at Diversity

    • Philip talked about how we all so readily jump to labelling people and just how unfair that can be. He himself being a disabled, gay, white, comedian
    • What amused me is how me handled the “next slide” button better than all the other abled-bodied presenters (they often skipped 2 slides ahead and then had to click back)
    • Lesson for me: If creativity comes from constraints then disabled people must be the most creative of all of us
    • Philip is best recognised for his ten-year career as a comedian and entertainer. He is an alumni of the New Zealand Social Entrepreneur Fellowship.

    2. Aakash Polra and Jade Tan Swea Phin: The Mind Leading the Blind

    • This team is working on a way that Smart Phones can be used as seeing-eye dogs for the blind.
    • In a survey, the blind stated their top 3 needs as: The colour of things, reading text and brightness level of rooms
    • The AI software can recognise many objects so the user can determine “of the 2 cans in front of me, which is spaghetti, and which is cat food?”.
    • As the AI continues to learn, there is also an crowd-sourced human layer of people who receive the photo on their own smart devices and they can text back what they see.
    • Lesson for me: We’ve only begun to see the tip of the iceberg about how Smart Phones will change our world, and for the minorities especially, there are special opportunities for them
    • Aakash and Jade are members of MobileEye, a software start-up team from Auckland University of Technology.

    3. Sam Hunt

    • I knew of Sam Hunt of course and enjoy the uniqueness of his poem reading style, but I’d never taken the time to really listen to what he had to say
    • He had the entire crowd laughing. The stories in between poems where hilarious, and the poems themselves… well, I only understood half of it, but I came away with a new appreciation of him as an artist and the style he has created for himself
    • Lesson for me: Be unique. Even in an antiquated commodity (like poetry), there is always room for you to define your own style.
    • Sam is New Zealand’s preeminent poet and author. His recent work includes Doubtless and the semi-autobiographical Backroads: Charting a Poet’s Life.

    4. Victoria Spackman: The Wall – Making History Social

    • Victoria has developed a mobile museum with giant touch screens in a 40 foot shipping container that enables people to find out more about the history and significance of their city
    • Victoria is the Chief Executive of the Gibson Group. Her recent projects include an award-winning immersive museum outreach project in Copenhagen.
    • Web:

    5. Dr. Assil Russell: ICARE – Changing Lives in Iraq

    • Assil encourages people to donate time and/or money to Iraqi orphans and other disadvantaged children
    • One powerful quote she read out that her Dad told her once: “If you see something that needs changing, change it with your own hands. If not with your hands, then with your voice. If not with your voice, then with your heart”
    • Assil is a dental surgeon and founder of ICARE, New Zealand’s first and only registered medical and dental charity for Iraqi orphans and disadvantaged children.

    6. Professor John Windsor: Fighting Organ Failure

    • John’s theory on Multiple Organ Failure “the plague of modern medicine” is that the lymphatic system is to blame for spilling toxins sequentially into the Heart, Lungs, and Kidneys
    • John is a surgeon who holds a personal chair in surgery at the University of Auckland. He is also co-founder and a director of the start-up SIMTICS Ltd.
    • Web:

    7. Matthew Simmons: The Lowdown on Infrasound

    • Matthew really really really likes loud speakers. The bigger the better. The louder the better.
    • He sold hundreds of the “Bladder Buster” speakers which are 3m high. He sold the first one before he’d even built a prototype.
    • He is interested in things that have never been done, or “impossible”.
    • To him, “impossible” means you just don’t have enough info yet
    • Lesson for me: You can sell something that doesn’t exist yet if it is so outrageous that people fall in love with it as soon as it starts to take form in their minds
    • Matthew is the CEO of Arvus Group International and currently part of the NZ Clean Energy Centre’s Enterprise Great Lake Taupo (EGLT) team.
    • Web:

    8. Dr. David Krofcheck: Higgs boson – The Kiwi Connection

    • David did his best to explain to me what is happening in the particle accelerator in Cern, Switzerland
    • Basically they smash streams of Protons together and detect the various particles that come flying out of these collisions.
    • I appreciated his sense of humour about it all, because it was quite complicated in parts.
    • David is one of New Zealand’s leading physics researchers and a specialist in experimental high energy nuclear physics and environmental radiation.
    • Web:

    4 Somewhat Awesome Speakers at TEDx Auckland

    1. Alistair Knott: Teaching Computers to Talk

    • Alistair is an Associate Professor at University of Otago with a background in cognitive science and artificial intelligence.
    • Web:
    2. Sean Gourley: Big Data and the Rise of Augmented Intelligence

    • Sean is a physicist, decathlete, political advisor and TED fellow. He is also the co-founder and CTO of Quid, which is building a global intelligence platform.
    • Web: | Twitter: @sgourley

    3. Peter Young: The Last Ocean

    • Peter is one of New Zealand’s most accomplished documentary fi lmmakers and the founder of Fisheye Films.
    • Web:

    4. Andrew Patterson: Rebuilding Architecture From the Ground Up

    • Andrew is the Design Director of Patterson Associates Ltd, and arguably New Zealand’s most internationally recognised and published architect.
    • Web:

    There were also 2 music sets:

    1. Five Mile Town: The Lucky Ones

    • Five Mile Town are an up and coming Auckland-based Indie Folk band made up of Louis McDonald, Adam Quiqley, Levi Heeringa and Ryan Wilson.
    • Web:

    2. Seth Haapu: Pull No Punches

    • Seth is a singer-songwriter whose self-produced debut album saw him work alongside musicians such as Godfrey De Grut (Che Fu) and Nick Gaff aney (Golden Horse).
    • Web:

    And the MC Andrew Patterson was awesome:

    • A special shout out to Andrew who did a fantastic job at making the speakers feel welcome and keeping all the transitions smooth.

    “I Think It’s Too Long, Can You Make It Shorter?” A Phrase I Dread

    I do quite a bit of copywriting:

    • email proposals
    • email newsletters
    • sales pages on websites
    • blog articles
    • direct response letters
    • and the occasional fax (I’m joking about the fax, it’s not the nineties anymore)

    The pieces of work I create are as long as they need to be and often include all of the following components:

    • Headline: A headline dripping with benefits that leaves the reader hungry to read the rest
    • Highly personalised: In email newsletters I like to mention the recipients first name 7 times. In direct mail my record is mentioning their first name 16 times
    • Chatty and friendly: Written in a one-on-one style as if the two of us were sitting down over a coffee and having a chat. This decreases the distance between you and I
    • Compelling content: That tells a story and focuses on what you get out of the deal. It even addresses your objections before they form in your mind
    • A limited time offer: “Respond before 5pm Friday”, and/or a limited number of customers “Only 10 positions available”
    • A call to action: Eg choose between 3 packages with ascending prices and value. “Call 0800 123 123 to secure your position”

    I put my heart and soul into this work.

    I work on it like it’s a piece of art. It just has to be perfect before I’m happy to release it on the world.

    And time and time again this work pays off, because it generates the responses/action/sales goals that I set for those pieces.

    But sometimes, a client comes back and says that dreaded phrase “I think it’s too long, can you make it shorter?”


    There are 2 reasons why clients say “I think it’s too long”:

    1. Because they are not in the target audience (I’m not trying to sell your services back to you, I’m selling them to your prospects. It’s no wonder you aren’t captivated)
    2. They are bored of simple explanations of what they do. This is what prospects that have never heard of you need, but you might be bored of simplifying your story

    Because the fact is, if something is interesting to an individual, they will keep reading and keep reading and keep reading.

    They are thirsty for the content, and they can’t stop because it tastes like cool water as they read.

    Most novels take 4, 6, 8, 10 hours to read, right?

    If you had just started a novel by your favourite author that you’d been waiting months to get hold of, and I told you that I had a one page summary in a sealed envelope and I tried to give it to you would you yell at me “Keep that away from me!! Leave me to read my book in peace!”

    Sure you would.

    Length isn’t important.

    It’s the journey.

    It’s the story.

    So the next time you read an article in a newspaper, or an email newsletter, or draft copy from someone who is helping you write an email newsletter, and your first thought is “I think it’s too long”. Check yourself.

    Are you in the target audience?

    If not, keep your opinion to yourself.