How Robotics In NZ’s Primary Industries Could Double Productivity By 2025

Last night I attended a University of Waikato lecture entitled “Robotics in primary industries – the revolution begins!” presented by Professor Mike Duke.

Professor Mike Duke

It was fascinating!

Here are my notes on the talk:

The Goal

The NZ Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) has set the goal of doubling primary industry exports by 2025.

7 Key Challenges Slowing Growth In The Primary Industry

  1. Labour shortage
    • Very difficult to find locals interested in low-skill work so having to bring in immigrants
  2. Labour cost
    • Often have to pay agencies to source workers which adds to labour cost
  3. Labour legislation
    • Rules and regulations around working hours, conditions etc
  4. Quality control
    • Work often needs to be checked 2 or 3 times, lots of wastage, lack of care
  5. Labour reliability
    • Workers often don’t turn up
  6. Health and Safety
    • Increasing burden for compliance
  7. Obsolete machinery
    • Produces lower quality results

Can Robotics and Smart Automation Help Solve Some of these Issues?

A major component of primary industries is grading. Grading fruit for blemishes,  grading seedlings for suitability.

“Grading is not good use of human brainpower”.

We’ve been using robots in factories for years (eg the vehicle manufacturing industry)

But how do we move robots from factories to the fields?

Some of the challenges unique to outdoor robots dealing with plants:

  • Zero light control: Night and day, and dappled light in overhead canopies is problematic for light sensors and cameras
  • Rain
  • Huge variation in foliage structure
  • Slopping ground, difficult terrain

4 Examples of Primary Industry Robots

Here are 4 examples of robots built, or in development, by the university and it’s partners.

Robotic Example #1: The robot that punches precision holes for seedlings

The problem:

  • In a nursery, an antiquated machine with a spiked wheel was being used to punch holes in the soil
  • The problem is that the spike makes a ragged hole, and when the seedling starts to grow it adapts to the shape of the whole and often grows crooked

The robotic solution:

  • The team created a robot that rolls along and punches precision holes

The result:

  • The robot (based in Tokoroa), has created 20 million precision holes in the last 4 years

Robotic Example #2: The robot that picks and grades seedlings

The problem:

  • Once the seedlings are ready for picking and sending to the clients, the process is tedious, and time consuming

The robotic solution:

  • The team created a robot that rolls along and picks out the seedlings, knocks off the dirt, trims off some of the longer roots, and passes the roots under a camera to assess it’s quality and suitability for the client, and packs the seedling into a box

The result:

  • The robot can lift 100,000 trees a day

Robotic Example #3: The robot that hunts down Asparagus stalks

The problem:

  • Asparagus is only ready to be picked when it has reached a certain height
  • The fields are large and would require 100’s of kilometres of walking per day for a single person so often need teams of dozens or up to 80 people
  • Picking asparagus is a back-breaking job that harvests one stalk at a time

The robotic solution:

  • The team is working on a robot that uses LIDAR to detect asparagus in the field that has reached the right height, navigate to these stalks, cut them and place them in a tray
  • 10 robots like this could move around night and day

Robotic Example #4: The robot that picks Kiwifruit and pollinates flowers

The problem:

  • Harvesting kiwifruit is time sensitive and labour intensive. It’s hard work reaching up into the canopy
  • Bee’s don’t like kiwifruit flowers much so they often need to be pollinated by hand with a spray bottle of very expensive pollen

The robotic solution:

  • The team has developed a robot car with a platform that can host a wide range of robotic devices on top of it
  • One such robotic device is a system of 4 robot arms that can pick a kiwifruit every second
  • Another such robotic device is a pollination machine that can pollinate 20,000 flowers in a single row of kiwifruit in a few minutes
The robotic, self-driving platform
This RoboticsPlus kiwifruit picking robot can pick a kiwifruit every second

Additional applications include:

  • The identification, and targeted eradication, of individual pest insects
  • The pollination of just the flowers that the harvesting robot can reach easily in a few months (instead of 20% of the crop being out of reach for the harvesting robot)
  • Counting pests or diseases (stink bugs, murtle rust) and tag their location or eradicate them
  • The identification and eradication of individual weeds

A New Export For New Zealand

Exporting our produce is one thing, but exporting robots like these is a whole new service category for New Zealand.

Watch The Presentation Yourself

You can watch the 45 minute presentation yourself on YouTube, which was recorded a few weeks earlier for a different audience but with almost identical content:

Your Thoughts?

Do you think the goal is achievable with the help of robots like these?

Are we doing enough to prepare our children for working in industries like these in the near future?

Have your say in the comments section below.

Tools of Titans by Timothy Ferriss

I’ve been a fan of Tim Ferris since the beginning when his first book 4-Hour Work Week caused me to quit my job. I own every book he’s written.

This book is a collection of his favourite moments from the 100’s of pod-cast interviews he’s done with “Billionaires, Icons and World-Class Performers”.

It’s also crammed full of recommendations for documentries and books, so after reading this book instead of my reading list being reduced by one, it has increased by 10.

The book is in 3 parts: Healthy, Wealthy and Wise.

Here are my favourite bits of “Tools of Titans: The Tactics, Routines, and Habits of Billionaires, Icons, and World-Class Performers” by Timothy Ferriss.

Part 1: HEALTHY

A very simple 10-second exercise. I tell the audience members to each identify two human beings in the room and just think, “I wish for this person to be happy, and I wish for that person to be happy.

Everybody emerges from this exercise smiling, happier than 10 seconds before. This is the joy of loving-kindness.

During working hours or school hours, randomly identify two people who walk past you or who are standing or sitting around you. Secretly wish for them to be happy. Just think to yourself, “I wish for this person to be happy, and I wish for that person to be happy.

I found myself wondering throughout the day, “Why am I so happy?” Part of the reason I think it’s so effective is that meditation is normally a very “me”-focused activity,

Part 2 WEALTHY

CHRIS SACCA

GO TO AS MANY HIGHER-LEVEL MEETINGS AS POSSIBLE

“Go to all the meetings you can, even if you’re not invited to them, and figure out how to be helpful. If people wonder why you’re there, just start taking notes.”

Chris was well known at Google for showing up to meetings with anyone, including the co-founders. Even if attendees looked at each other puzzled, Chris would sit down and let them know he’d be taking notes for them.

GOOD STORIES ALWAYS BEAT GOOD SPREADSHEETS

“Whether you are raising money, pitching your product to customers, selling the company, or recruiting employees, never forget that underneath all the math and the MBA bullshit talk, we are all still emotionally driven human beings. We want to attach ourselves to narratives. We don’t act because of equations. We follow our beliefs. We get behind leaders who stir our feelings.”

MARC ANDREESSEN

RAISE PRICES

It has become conventional wisdom in Silicon Valley that the way to succeed is to price your product as low as possible, under the theory that if it’s low-priced, everybody can buy it, and that’s how you get to volume,” he said. “And we just see over and over and over again people failing with that, because they get into a problem called ‘too hungry to eat.’ They don’t charge enough for their product to be able to afford the sales and marketing required to actually get anybody to buy it. Is your product any good if people won’t pay more for it?

DEREK SIVERS

HOW TO THRIVE IN AN UNKNOWABLE FUTURE? CHOOSE THE PLAN WITH THE MOST OPTIONS. THE BEST PLAN IS THE ONE THAT LETS YOU CHANGE YOUR PLANS.

THE STANDARD PACE IS FOR CHUMPS

“I think you can graduate Berklee School of Music in two years instead of four. The standard pace is for chumps. The school has to organize its curricula around the lowest common denominator, so that almost no one is left out. They have to slow down, so everybody can catch up. But,’ he said, ‘you’re smarter than that.’ He said, ‘I think you could just buy the books for those, [skip the classes] and then contact the department head to take the final exam to get credit.”

TF: Lack of time is lack of priorities. If I’m “busy,” it is because I’ve made choices that put me in that position, so I’ve forbidden myself to reply to “How are you?” with “Busy.” I have no right to complain. Instead, if I’m too busy, it’s a cue to reexamine my systems and rules.

TAKE 45 MINUTES INSTEAD OF 43—IS YOUR RED FACE WORTH IT?

Why don’t I just chill? For once, I’m gonna go on the same bike ride, and I’m not going to be a complete snail, but I’ll go at half of my normal pace.’ I got on my bike, and it was just pleasant.

I was like, ‘Hey, a pelican!’ and he shit in my mouth.

I looked at my watch, and it said 45 minutes. I thought, ‘How the hell could that have been 45 minutes, as opposed to my usual 43? There’s no way.’ But it was right: 45 minutes. That was a profound lesson that changed the way I’ve approached my life ever since…. “We could do the math, [but] whatever, 93-something-percent of my huffing and puffing, and all that red face and all that stress was only for an extra 2 minutes. It was basically for nothing…. [So,] for life, I think of all of this maximization—getting the maximum dollar out of everything, the maximum out of every second, the maximum out of every minute—you don’t need to stress about any of this stuff.

What’s something you believe that other people think is crazy? “Oh, that’s easy. I’ve got a lot of unpopular opinions. I believe alcohol tastes bad, and so do olives. I’ve never tried coffee, but I don’t like the smell.

Ben Franklin’s excellent advice: “If you would not be forgotten as soon as you are dead and rotten, either write things worth reading, or do things worth writing.

is the ultimate quantification of success? For me, it’s not how much time you spend doing what you love. It’s how little time you spend doing what you hate. And this woman spent all day, every day doing what she loved.

REID HOFFMAN

QuestBridge supplies more exceptional low-in-come talent (i.e., kids) to top universities than all other nonprofits combined. QuestBridge has created a single standardized college application that’s accepted by more than 30 top universities like Stanford, MIT, Amherst, and Yale. This allows them to do some very innovative things, such as give away laptops and have the giveaway forms double as college applications. They then offer scholarships to many kids who could otherwise not even think of college. Did you know that roughly $3 billion available for scholarships goes wasted each year? It’s not a funding problem: It’s a sourcing problem.

“I have come to learn that part of the business strategy is to solve the simplest, easiest, and most valuable problem. And actually, in fact, part of doing strategy is to solve the easiest problem, so part of the reason why you work on software and bits is that atoms [physical products] are actually very difficult.

“Never go to sleep without a request to your subconscious.”—Thomas Edison

PETER THIEL

How important is failure in business? “I think failure is massively overrated. Most businesses fail for more than one reason. So when a business fails, you often don’t learn anything at all because the failure was overdetermined.

“I think people actually do not learn very much from failure. I think it ends up being quite damaging and demoralizing to people in the long run, and my sense is that the death of every business is a tragedy.

What I prefer over trends is a sense of mission. That you are working on a unique problem that people are not solving elsewhere. “When Elon Musk started SpaceX, they set out the mission to go to Mars. You may agree or disagree with that as a mission statement, but it was a problem that was not going to be solved outside of SpaceX. All of the people working there knew that, and it motivated them tremendously.

So if I said that nobody should go to college, that might be hypocritical. But what I have said is that not everybody should do the same thing.

SETH GODIN

So the goal isn’t to get good ideas; the goal is to get bad ideas. Because once you get enough bad ideas, then some good ones have to show up.”

Seth has no comments on his blog, he doesn’t pay attention to analytics, and he doesn’t use Twitter or Facebook (except to rebroadcast his daily blog posts, which is automated). In a world of tool obsession and FOMO (fear of missing out) on the next social platform, Seth doesn’t appear to care. He simply focuses on putting out good and short daily posts, he ignores the rest, and he continues to thrive. There are no real rules, so make rules that work for you.

“I think we need to teach kids two things: 1) how to lead, and 2) how to solve interesting problems. Because the fact is, there are plenty of countries on Earth where there are people who are willing to be obedient and work harder for less money than us. So we cannot out-obedience the competition.

James recommends the habit of writing down 10 ideas each morning in a waiter’s pad or tiny notebook. This exercise is for developing your “idea muscle” and confidence for creativity on demand, so regular practice is more important than the topics:

“I [then] divide my paper into two columns. On one column is the list of ideas. On the other column is the list of FIRST STEPS.

  • 10 old ideas I can make new
  • 10 ridiculous things I would invent (e.g., the smart toilet)
  • 10 books I can write (The Choose Yourself Guide to an Alternative Education, etc).
  • 10 business ideas for Google/Amazon/Twitter/etc.
  • 10 people I can send ideas to
  • 10 podcast ideas or videos I can shoot (e.g., Lunch with James, a video podcast where I just have lunch with people over Skype and we chat)
  • 10 industries where I can remove the middleman
  • 10 things I disagree with that everyone else assumes is religion (college, home ownership, voting, doctors, etc.)
  • 10 ways to take old posts of mine and make books out of them
  • 10 people I want to be friends with (then figure out the first step to contact them)
  • 10 things I learned yesterday
  • 10 things I can do differently today
  • 10 ways I can save time
  • 10 things I learned from X, where X is someone I’ve recently spoken with or read a book by or about. I’ve written posts on this about the Beatles, Mick Jagger, Steve Jobs, Charles Bukowski, the Dalai Lama, Superman, Freakonomics, etc.
  • 10 things I’m interested in getting better at (and then 10 ways I can get better at each one)
  • 10 things I was interested in as a kid that might be fun to explore now (Like, maybe I can write that “Son of Dr. Strange” comic I’ve always been planning. And now I need 10 plot ideas.)
  • 10 ways I might try to solve a problem I have This has saved me with the IRS countless times. Unfortunately, the Department of Motor Vehicles is impervious to my superpowers.

SCOTT ADAMS

Everyone has at least a few areas in which they could be in the top 25% with some effort.

It could be as simple as learning how to sell more effectively than 75% of the world. That’s one. Now add to that whatever your passion is, and you have two, because that’s the thing you’ll easily put enough energy into to reach the top 25%. If you have an aptitude for a third skill, perhaps business or public speaking. develop that too.

You’d be hard-pressed to find any successful person who didn’t have about three skills in the top 25%.

SHAUN WHITE

The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing by Al Ries and Jack Trout, The Law of the Category. When you’re the first in a new category, promote the category.

ALEX BLUMBERG

Prompts to Elicit Stories (Most Interviewers Are Weak at This)

  • “Tell me about a time when …”
  • “Tell me about the day [or moment or time] when …”
  • “Tell me the story of … [how you came to major in X, how you met so-and-so, etc.]”
  • “Tell me about the day you realized ___ …”
  • “What were the steps that got you to ___ ?”
  • “Describe the conversation when …

Follow-Up Questions When Something Interesting Comes Up, Perhaps in Passing

  • “How did that make you feel?”
  • “What do you make of that?

ED CATMULL

IF YOU CAN’T READ IT, TRY LISTENING TO IT

“My brain works differently. It turns out I am unable to read poetry…. Reading poetry, within a few seconds, shuts my brain down.

So this woman at a dinner said: ‘Don’t read it, listen to it.’ I bought the tape and I listened to it, and I found I was completely enthralled.

TRACY DINUNZIO

‘When you complain, nobody wants to help you,’ and it’s the simplest thing and so plainly spoken. Only he could really say that brutal, honest truth, but it’s true, right? If you spend your time focusing on the things that are wrong, and that’s what you express and project to people you know, you don’t become a source of growth for people, you become a source of destruction for people. That draws more destructiveness.

Book your A list for after your first 10 pitches.

PHIL LIBIN

And Bezos looks at me and goes, ‘Mars is stupid.’ And I say, ‘What?’ He says, ‘Once we get off of the planet, the last thing we want to do is go to another gravity.’ “Bezos said, ‘The whole point, the reason this is so hard to get off the earth, is to defeat gravity the first time. Once we do that, why would you want to go to Mars? We should just live on space stations and mine asteroids and everything is much better than being on Mars.

“Every single thing in your company breaks every time you roughly triple in size.”

“His hypothesis is that everything breaks at roughly these points of 3 and 10 [multiples of 3 and powers of 10]. And by ‘everything,’ it means everything: how you handle payroll, how you schedule meetings, what kind of communications you use, how you do budgeting, who actually makes decisions. Every implicit and explicit part of the company just changes significantly when it triples.

CHRIS YOUNG

His dad, a very successful entrepreneur, gave Chris advice when he was a freshman or sophomore in high school: “I distinctly remember him saying not to worry about what I was going to do because the job I was going to do hadn’t even been invented yet…. The interesting jobs are the ones that you make up

Don’t worry about what your job is going to be…. Do things that you’re interested in, and if you do them really well, you’re going to find a way to temper them with some good business opportunity.

One of the top 10 venture capitalists I know uses a variant of this litmus test as his measurement of “disruptive”: For each $1 of revenue you generate, can you cost an incumbent $5 to $10? If so, he’ll invest.

one of my favorite business-related PDFs floating around the Internet is “Valve: Handbook for New Employees

DAYMOND JOHN

“If you go out there and start making noise and making sales, people will find you. Sales cure all. You can talk about how great your business plan is and how well you are going to do. You can make up your own opinions, but you cannot make up your own facts. Sales cure all.

Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World.

That last Genghis Khan book has been recommended to me by several billionaires.

NOAH KAGAN

The book Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman! by Richard P. Feynman: “If you ever meet me in person, I have an extra copy because it’s just that amazing.

LUIS VON AHN

‘I don’t understand what you’re saying,’ and then I would try to find another way of saying it, and a whole hour would pass and I could not get past the first sentence.

This is basically just an act. Essentially, I was being unclear about what I was saying, and I did not fully understand what I was trying to explain to him. He was just drilling deeper and deeper and deeper until I realized, every time, that there was actually something I didn’t have clear in my mind. He really taught me to think deeply about things, and I think that’s something I have not forgotten.

Try experimenting with saying “I don’t understand. Can you explain that to me?” more often.

THE CANVAS STRATEGY

“Great men have almost always shown themselves as ready to obey as they afterwards proved able to command.” —Lord Mahon

Imagine if for every person you met, you thought of some way to help them, something you could do for them? And you looked at it in a way that entirely benefited them and not you? The cumulative effect this would have over time would be profound: You’d learn a great deal by solving diverse problems. You’d develop a reputation for being indispensable. You’d have countless new relationships. You’d have an enormous bank of favors to call upon down the road.

That’s what the canvas strategy is about—helping yourself by helping others. Making a concerted effort to trade your short-term gratification for a longer-term payoff. Whereas everyone else wants to get credit and be “respected,” you can forget credit. You can forget it so hard that you’re glad when others get it instead of you—that was your aim, after all. Let the others take their credit on credit, while you defer and earn interest on the principal.

  • Maybe it’s coming up with ideas to hand over to your boss.
  • Find people, thinkers, up-and-comers to introduce to each other. Cross wires to create new sparks.
  • Find what nobody else wants to do and do it.
  • Find inefficiencies and waste and redundancies. Identify leaks and patches to free up resources for new areas.
  • Produce more than everyone else and give your ideas away.

SCOTT BELSKY

What do you believe that others think is insane? “It is essential to get lost and jam up your plans every now and then. It’s a source of creativity and perspective. The danger of maps, capable assistants, and planning is that you may end up living your life as planned. If you do, your potential cannot possibly exceed your expectations.

How has a “failure” set you up for later success? “The hardest decisions to make in business are those that disappoint people you care about.

“From this experience I learned what legendary writers call ‘killing your darlings’—the plot points and characters that detract from a novel. Sometimes you need to stop doing things you love in order to nurture the one thing that matters most.”

“… young creative minds don’t need more ideas, they need to take more responsibility with the ideas they’ve already got.”

PETER DIAMANDIS

“THE BEST WAY TO BECOME A BILLIONAIRE IS TO HELP A BILLION PEOPLE.”

‘When you go after a moonshot—something that’s 10 times bigger, not 10% bigger—a number of things happen….’ “First of all, when you’re going 10% bigger, you’re competing against everybody. Everybody’s trying to go 10% bigger. When you’re trying to go 10 times bigger, you’re there by yourself.

when you are trying to go 10 times bigger, you have to start with a clean sheet of paper, and you approach the problem completely differently. I’ll give you my favorite example: Tesla. How did Elon start Tesla and build from scratch the safest, most extraordinary car, not even in America, but I think in the world? It’s by not having a legacy from the past to drag into the present. That’s important.

“Three to five billion new consumers are coming online in the next 6 years. Holy cow, that’s extraordinary. What do they need? What could you provide for them, because they represent tens of trillions of dollars coming into the global economy, and they also represent an amazing resource of innovation.

PETER’S LAWS

Peter has a set of rules that guide his life.

His 28 Peter’s Laws have been collected over decades.

Here are some of my favorites:

  • Law 2: When given a choice … take both.
  • Law 3: Multiple projects lead to multiple successes.
  • Law 6: When forced to compromise, ask for more.
  • Law 7: If you can’t win, change the rules.
  • Law 8: If you can’t change the rules, then ignore them.
  • Law 11: “No” simply means begin again at one level higher.
  • Law 13: When in doubt: THINK.
  • Law 16: The faster you move, the slower time passes, the longer you live.
  • Law 17: The best way to predict the future is to create it yourself. (adopted from Alan Kay)
  • Law 19: You get what you incentivize.
  • Law 22: The day before something is a breakthrough, it’s a crazy idea.
  • Law 26: If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it.

Money can always be regenerated. Time and reputation cannot.

GET THE LONG-TERM GOAL ON THE CALENDAR BEFORE THE SHORT-TERM PAIN HITS

Make commitments in a high-energy state so that you can’t back out when you’re in a low-energy state.

The Oxford Book of Aphorisms by John Gross because it contains the most brilliant one-liners in history.

Favorite documentaries

  • Catfish—“It’s a cliché, but it’s a brilliant, generation-defining documentary.”
  • To Be and to Have—“This is a beautiful and simple film about a one-room school in France, and what happens over the course of one year.”
  • The Overnighters—“This covers oil exploration in North Dakota, which has become perhaps bigger than the Gold Rush in the 1800s

The Road to No

  • If I’m not saying “HELL YEAH!” about something, then I say no. Meaning: When deciding whether to commit to something, if I feel anything less than “Wow! That would be amazing! Absolutely! Hell yeah!”—then my answer is no.
  • My agenda became a list of everyone else’s agendas.
  • great creative work isn’t possible if you’re trying to piece together 30 minutes here and 45 minutes there. Large, uninterrupted blocks of time—3 to 5 hours
  • Life favors the specific ask and punishes the vague wish.
  • If I sleep poorly and have an early morning meeting, I’ll cancel the meeting
  • Making health #1 50% of the time doesn’t work. It’s absolutely all-or-nothing.

Are You Having a Breakdown or a Breakthrough? A Short How-To Guide

  • If you’re suffering from a feeling of overwhelm, it might be useful to ask yourself two questions: In the midst of overwhelm, is life not showing me exactly what I should subtract? Am I having a breakdown or a breakthrough?
  • For me, step one is always the same: Write down the 20% of activities and people causing 80% or more of your negative emotions. My step two is doing a “fear-setting” exercise on paper (here), in which I ask and answer, “What is really the worst that could happen if I stopped doing what I’m considering? And so what? How could I undo any damage?

To “fix” someone’s problem, you very often just need to empathically listen to them.

Part 3: WISE

MARIA POPOVA

SOMETIMES, THE BEST “NO” IS NO REPLY

“Why put in the effort to explain why it isn’t a fit, if they haven’t done the homework to determine if it is a fit?” Maria could spend all day replying to bad pitches with polite declines.

‘Those who work much, do not work hard.

“When Kurt Vonnegut wrote ‘Write to please just one person,’ what he was really saying was write for yourself. Don’t try to please anyone but yourself…. The second you start doing it for an audience, you’ve lost the long game because creating something that is rewarding and sustainable over the long run requires, most of all, keeping yourself excited about it

Book recommendations:

  • “The Shortness of Life: Seneca on Busyness and the Art of Living Wide Rather Than Living Long”
  • “How to Find Your Purpose and Do What You Love”
  • “9 Learnings from 9 Years of Brain Pickings”
  • Anything about Alan Watts: “Alan Watts has changed my life. I’ve written about him quite a bit.

JOCKO WILLINK

Freeform days might seem idyllic, but they are paralyzing due to continual paradox of choice (e.g., “What should I do now?”) and decision fatigue (e.g., “What should I have for breakfast?

“You can’t blame your boss for not giving you the support you need. Plenty of people will say, ‘It’s my boss’s fault.’ No, it’s actually your fault because you haven’t educated him, you haven’t influenced him, you haven’t explained to him in a manner he understands why you need this support that you need. That’s extreme ownership. Own it all.

MARC GOODMAN

Book recommendation: Kevin Kelly, The Inevitable

SHAY CARL

HOW SHAY CURRENTLY SHOOTS VIDEO

Canon PowerShot G7 X camera

It’s about the relationship you build, not the production quality. The effects of “acting” more upbeat seemed to last at least 2 to 3 hours.

KEVIN KELLY

Cooking everything using a Kelly Kettle. This is a camping device that can generate heat from nearly anything found in your backyard or on a roadside (e.g., twigs, leaves, paper)

Fasting, consuming nothing but water.

Oddly, you might observe that you are happier after this experiment in bare-bones simplicity. I often find this to be the case. Once you’ve realized—and it requires a monthly or quarterly reminder—how independent your well-being is from having an excess of money, it becomes easier to take “risks” and say “no” to things that seem too lucrative to pass up. There is more freedom to be gained from practicing poverty than chasing wealth. Suffer a little regularly and you often cease to suffer.

WHITNEY CUMMINGS

My trauma therapist said every time you meet someone, just in your head say, ‘I love you’ before you have a conversation with them, and that conversation is going to go a lot better.

“Happiness is wanting what you have.”

BRYAN CALLEN

“The difference between the people you admire and everybody else [is that the former are] the people who read.”

Book recommendation: The Art of Learning by Josh Waitzkin

ALAIN DE BOTTON

Favorite documentary The Up series.

Planshopping. That is, deferring committing to any one plan for an evening until you know what all your options are, and then picking the one that’s most likely to be fun/advance your career/have the most girls at it—in other words, treating people like menu options or products in a catalog.

When you’re not drinking, you can see drunkenness more clearly than those actually experiencing it.

I did make a conscious decision, a long time ago, to choose time over money, since you can always make more money. And I’ve always understood that the best investment of my limited time on earth is to spend it with people I love.

CAL FUSSMAN

Book recommendations:

  • Gabriel García Márquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude
  • The Right Stuff by Tom Wolfe

PAULO COELHO

What are the most common mistakes or weaknesses of first-time novelists? “Keep it simple. Trust your reader. He or she has a lot of imagination. Don’t try to describe things. Give a hint, and they will fulfill this hint with their own imagination.

  • Write about a time when you realized you were mistaken.
  • Write about a lesson you learned the hard way.
  • Write about a time you were inappropriately dressed for the occasion.
  • Write about something you lost that you’ll never get back.
  • Write about a time when you knew you’d done the right thing.
  • Write about something you don’t remember.
  • Write about your darkest teacher.
  • Write about a memory of a physical injury.
  • Write about when you knew it was over.
  • Write about being loved.
  • Write about what you were really thinking.
  • Write about how you found your way back.
  • Write about the kindness of strangers.
  • Write about why you could not do it.
  • Write about why you did.

AMANDA PALMER

Book recommendation: Dropping Ashes on the Buddha. It’s by Zen Master Seung Sahn.

ERIC WEINSTEIN

“Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it’s time to pause and reflect.”—Mark Twain.

SETH ROGEN & EVAN GOLDBERG

8 TACTICS FOR DEALING WITH HATERS

  1. It doesn’t matter how many people don’t get it. What matters is how many people do.
  2. 10% of people will find a way to take anything personally. Expect it and treat it as math.
  3. When in doubt, starve it of oxygen.
  4. If you respond, don’t over-apologize. Some version of “I see you” will diffuse at least 80% of people who appear to be haters or would-be haters.
  5. You can’t reason someone out of something they didn’t reason themselves into.
  6. “Trying to get everyone to like you is a sign of mediocrity. You’ll avoid the tough decisions, and you’ll avoid confronting the people who need to be confronted.”—Colin Powell
  7. “If you want to improve, be content to be thought foolish and stupid.”—Epictetus
  8. “Living well is the best revenge.”—George Herbert

NAVAL RAVIKANT

“Desire is a contract you make with yourself to be unhappy until you get what you want.

“Free education is abundant, all over the Internet. It’s the desire to learn that’s scarce.

“You get paid for being right first, and to be first, you can’t wait for consensus.

GLENN BECK

People are starving for something authentic. They’ll accept you, warts and all, if that’s who you really are.

TARA BRACH

Radical Acceptance

…actively recognizing anger and other types of what we consider “negative” emotions. Rather than trying to suppress something or swat it away, we say to the emotion/ourselves, “I see you.” This counterintuitively helps to dissolve or resolve the issue.

MIKE BIRBIGLIA

…whenever we meet someone who we know doesn’t care about meeting us, my wife and I always try and come up with a trick question that throws them off. They kind of have to answer, or have to think about it.

THE JAR OF AWESOME

Anytime something really cool happens in a day, something that made me excited or joyful, doctor’s orders are to write it down on a slip of paper and put it in this mason jar. When something great happens, you think you’ll remember it 3 months later, but you won’t. The Jar of Awesome creates a record of great things that actually happened, all of which are easy to forget if you’re depressed or seeing the world through gray-colored glasses. I tend to celebrate very briefly, if at all, so this pays dividends for weeks, months, or years.

STEPHEN J. DUBNER

What’s the worst advice you hear often? “‘Write what you know.’ Why would I want to write about what little I know? Don’t I want to use writing to learn more?

JOSH WAITZKIN

Josh has no social media, does no interviews (except my podcast, for which he often says to me, “You fuck!”), and avoids nearly all meetings and phone calls. He minimizes input to maximize output, much like Rick Rubin. Josh says: “I cultivate empty space as a way of life for the creative process.

…when Josh gave me a beginner’s tutorial on chess, he didn’t start with opening moves. Memorizing openings is natural, and nearly everyone does it, but Josh likens it to stealing the test answers from a teacher. You’re not learning principles or strategies—you’re merely learning a few tricks that will help you beat your novice friends. Instead, Josh took me in reverse, just as his first teacher, Bruce Pandolfini, did with him. The board was empty, except for three pieces in an endgame scenario: king and pawn against king. Through the micro, positions of reduced complexity, he was able to focus me on the macro: principles like the power of empty space, opposition, and setting an opponent up for zugzwang (a situation where any move he makes will destroy his position). By limiting me to a few simple pieces, he hoped I would learn something limitless: high-level concepts I could apply anytime against anyone.

Whereas most competitors are secretive about their competition prep, Marcelo routinely records and uploads his sparring sessions, his exact training for major events. Josh explains the rationale: “[Marcelo] was visually showing these competitors what he was about to use against them at 2 weeks, 3 weeks, 4 weeks [away from competition], and his attitude about this was just completely unique: ‘If you’re studying my game, you’re entering my game, and I’ll be better at it than you.’” TF: I often share exact under-the-hood details of how I’ve built the podcast, put together Kickstarter campaigns, etc. I do this because of two core beliefs.

Belief #1—It’s rarely a zero-sum game (if someone wins, someone else must lose), and the more I help people with details, the more detailed help I receive.

Belief #2—If it is competitive, I’m simply offering people the details of my game. My attention to detail will scare off half of the people who would have tried; 40% will try it and be worse than me; 10% will try it and be better than me, but … see Belief #1. That 10% will often reach out to teach me what they’ve learned, as they’re grateful for my own transparency.

“One of the biggest mistakes that I observed in the first year of Jack’s life was parents who have unproductive language around weather being good or bad. Whenever it was raining, you’d hear moms, babysitters, dads say, ‘It’s bad weather. We can’t go out,’ or if it wasn’t, ‘It’s good weather. We can go out.’ That means that, somehow, we’re externally reliant on conditions being perfect in order to be able to go out and have a good time. So, Jack and I never missed a single storm, rain or snow, to go outside and romp in it. Maybe we missed one when he was sick. We’ve developed this language around how beautiful it is. Now, whenever it’s a rainy day, Jack says, ‘Look, Dada, it’s such a beautiful rainy day,’ and we go out and we play in it. I wanted him to have this internal locus of control—to not be reliant on external conditions being just so.”

JON FAVREAU

  1. To get huge, good things done, you need to be okay with letting the small, bad things happen.
  2. People’s IQs seem to double as soon as you give them responsibility and indicate that you trust them.

Most media rightly don’t give a rat’s ass about book launches. They care about stories, not announcements,

JAMIE FOXX

It’s never been easier to be a “creator,” and it’s never been harder to stand out. Good isn’t good enough.

BRYAN JOHNSON

“What can you do that will be remembered in 200 to 400 years?

BRIAN KOPPELMAN

“Is that a dream or a goal?” If it isn’t on the calendar, it isn’t real.

ROBERT RODRIGUEZ

Robert takes copious notes. He sets an alarm for midnight every night to input the day’s notes into a Word document. He dates everything and stores them by year, so he can find whatever he might want later:

I would go back and review the journals and realize how many life-changing things happened within a weekend. Things that you thought were spread out over 2 years were actually Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and that Monday. So many occurrences happened in chunks that could blow you away, things that kind of define you…. “For anyone who is a parent, it’s a must. It’s a must because your children—and you—forget everything. Within a few years, they’ll forget things that you think they should remember for the rest of their lives. They’ll only remember it if it’s reinforced.

MY RAPID-FIRE QUESTIONS

  • When you think of the word “successful,” who’s the first person who comes to mind and why?
  • What is something you believe that other people think is insane?
  • What is the book (or books) you’ve given most as a gift?
  • What is your favorite documentary or movie?
  • What purchase of $100 or less has most positively impacted your life in the last 6 months?
  • What are your morning rituals? What do the first 60 minutes of your day look like?
  • What obsessions do you explore on the evenings or weekends?
  • What topic would you speak about if you were asked to give a TED talk on something outside of your main area of expertise?
  • What is the best or most worthwhile investment you’ve made? Could be an investment of money, time, energy, or other resource. How did you decide to make the investment?
  • Do you have a quote you live your life by or think of often?
  • What is the worst advice you see or hear being dispensed in your world?
  • If you could have one gigantic billboard anywhere with anything on it, what would it say?
  • What advice would you give to your 20-, 25-, or 30-year-old self? And please place where you were at the time, and what you were doing.
  • How has a failure, or apparent failure, set you up for later success? Or, do you have a favorite failure of yours?
  • What is something really weird or unsettling that happens to you on a regular basis?
  • What have you changed your mind about in the last few years? Why?
  • What do you believe is true, even though you can’t prove it?
  • Any ask or request for my audience? Last parting words?

THE MOST-GIFTED AND RECOMMENDED BOOKS OF ALL GUESTS

  • Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu (5 mentions)
  • Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand (4)
  • Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari (4)
  • Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse (4)
  • The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss (4)
  • The Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande (4)
  • Dune by Frank Herbert (3)
  • Influence by Robert Cialdini (3)
  • Stumbling on Happiness by Daniel Gilbert (3)
  • Superintelligence by Nick Bostrom (3)
  • Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman! by Richard P. Feynman (3)
  • The 4-Hour Body by Tim Ferriss (3)
  • The Bible (3)
  • The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz (3)
  • The War of Art by Steven Pressfield (3)
  • Watchmen by Alan Moore (3)
  • Zero to One by Peter Thiel with Blake Masters (3)

Your Thoughts?

Have you read this book? What were your favourite parts? Are you going to read it thanks to this summary? Have your say in the comments below.

3 Businesses Shrunk To The Size Of A Shipping Container

The bigger the footprint of your business, the more you have to pay for rent/lease, right?

What if you could downsize your business to the size of a shipping container?

In the last 3 days I’ve come across 3 businesses that have done just that.

#1: A drum school in the back of a small truck

I had just dropped my boys off at their primary school and came across a small truck in the staff parking lot.

I peeked inside and met Phil Upton.

Phil teaches school kids the drums out of his truck which is set up with 3 electric drum kits.

He can teach up to 3 students at a time.

He serves schools throughout Tauranga for weekly lessons.

He bought the business off the previous owner, rebranded, got the truck signwritten, did some promotion, and tripled his business in a few months.

The kids love it because they get out of class sometimes to practice.

The parents love it because they don’t have to drive their kids anywhere outside of school hours.

And Phil loves it because he’s doing what he does best – teaching kids how to play.

Everybody wins.

#2. A e-bike hire business in a shipping container

I was in Wellington for the weekend and found a notice on the board at the YHA that offered e-bike hire down at Shed One beside the water.

Switched On Bikes was easy to find and the price was excellent, just $20 for an hour.

They told me “Take as long as you like, if you are over an hour we’ll just work something out when you get back”.

I was another hour over time and he said “$10?” and I said “Yes!”.

I zipped up Mount Victoria easily (I left the e-bike power at max).

The photo isn’t very flattering, but what I thought was remarkable is that their whole business packs down into their shipping container.

The bikes hang up on hooks when packed away, and every morning they unpack the container to set up their sales desk, workshop and a rack of supplies, and line up their rental bikes and bikes for sale outside.

They love it because their rent is cheap and their location is great.

Renters like me love it because their location is easy to get to, and their prices are cheap.

Everybody wins.

#3. A restaurant run from a truck

What if you could run a restaurant from a truck?

Of course, you know I’m talking about food trucks.

I love food trucks for 4 reasons:

  1. They are delicious and gourmet
    • You just can’t get their food anywhere else
    • You know their food is amazing and unique because the un-tasty, un-original ones go out of business quick because word gets around
  2. They are great value for money
    • They are not “cheap” but they are certainly cheaper than a restaurant or cafe
    • They do save money not paying for a building, but they only make their money in short bursts a few times a week when they have a crowd of people
  3. They are mobile
    • You might see your favourites at the next event you go to, or a new food truck to try
  4. They are fun! They often have:
    • A really fun attitude
    • Excellent service
    • Bold colours and designs in their signage
    • Creative names of their dishes
    • It’s even fun queuing up for one because they have such a buzz about them

(I love them so much I actually created a website about them and now have 140 NZ food trucks in my list.)

A local example is Tia’s Tacos is run by Erica Morales-Neville here in Tauranga. Her food is delicious, her branding is cool, and her prices are great.

Erica loves it because she has the lifestyle she wants.

We love it because we get to eat her delicious food for cheap.

Everybody wins.

Your Thoughts?

Could you shrink your business to the size of a shipping container?

Could it fit in the back of a truck?

Elon Musk: How the Billionaire CEO of SpaceX and Tesla is Shaping our Future by Ashlee Vance

This is one of the best business books I’ve ever read (and I’ve read a lot)!

There are 3 reasons why I liked it so much:

  1. It mashes together several interests of mine:
    • Technology
    • Entrepreneuriship/start-up companies
    • The future of our planet
    • Electric cars, autonomous vehicles, and the future of transportation
    • Solar power
    • and space travel
  2. It is superbly written
    • (by Ashlee Vance, a business columnist who has written for many major publications)
    • Vance steps back and forth between present day and the past with flashbacks that bring real depth and understanding of Elon Musk’s story, his background, his motivations and his relentless drive
  3. It fills me with hope
    • It’s the same reason I love TED videos too, because they fill me with hope about the future of the human race
    • Musk has found a way to make things the planet needs (electric cars powered with solar power as an alternative to burning fosil fuels, a plan for colonising another planet incase we screw this one up), and making billions of dollars in the process that he feeds into his next idea
    • That a person can have several epic ideas as a kid and see them come real in his own lifetime thanks to his own hard work (I hope my kids have the same experience)

Continue reading “Elon Musk: How the Billionaire CEO of SpaceX and Tesla is Shaping our Future by Ashlee Vance”

Vanilla Essence or Vanilla Extract? Which One Has Actual Vanilla In It?

I found out the answer to this question last night at BayCourt Tauranga, from Jennifer Boggiss who is the CE of Heilala Vanilla. She told her story for an audience of about 200 of us.

jennifer-bogis-tonga
Jennifer Boggiss pictured on right with one of her Tongan-based team members

She spoke very well with just the right amount of humour and stories.

Here are my notes on what I learned from her talk.

Firstly, Heilala is the name of the national flower of Tonga. It is pronounced “hey-la-la”. Continue reading “Vanilla Essence or Vanilla Extract? Which One Has Actual Vanilla In It?”

Launch by Jeff Walker

launch-jeff-walkerI’ve been reading about, and experimenting with, selling digital products for a couple of years (ebooks, e-courses, video courses etc), so when I came across this book I was pretty excited!

I expected this book to teach me how to:

  • Create and build up an email list
  • Generate ideas of what digital products I could create to sell to them
  • Test those ideas on small samples of my email list to find which one gets traction
  • Create a digital product
  • Write a series of emails that builds anticipation and trust
  • Make millions


But I was wrong.

It didn’t teach me those things. Continue reading “Launch by Jeff Walker”

The 6 Steps in The Creative Process: This will be awesome, This is hard, This is shit, I’m shit, This might be ok, This is awesome!

An artist friend of mine Murray Clode told me about the “The Creative Process” this morning at the Breakfast Club that I run.

The 6 Steps in The Creative Process

  1. This will be awesome
  2. This is hard
  3. This is shit
  4. I’m shit
  5. This might be ok!
  6. This is awesome!

This doesn’t just apply to creating art, it’s when we create anything:

  • You might have an idea for a new start-up business
  • You might launch into a d-i-y project at home
  • You might decide to learn a new language
  • You might decide to read a challenging book
  • You might decide to write a blog article like this one

Can you recognise yourself working through this process when you are doing something worthwhile?

For me, one of the most interesting parts of this list is how many opportunities there are to quit before you get something done!

The 4 Main Opportunities To Quit During The Creative Process

  1. Not getting started at all.
    • Having an awesome idea, but not taking the first step, not taking action. Most of us quit before we start
  2. When the initial optimism and excitement wears off and it gets hard, most of us quit
  3. If we work hard and then look with disappointment at what we’ve created, most of us quit
  4. When we see what we’ve created as a reflection of ourselves and blame ourselves for the dismal quality of the project, most of us quit

What Power Do You Have On Others Going Through The Process?

The second most interesting part of this is the power we have over people in the middle of creating something.

If you attack someones ideas you might send them into phase #3 (the “This is shit” phase) too early, so they quit!

If you encourage and uplift someone it might send them into phase #5 (the “This might be ok” phase) just before they quit!

When we are exposed to peoples ideas, we can’t help but have a reaction.

Those ideas might be art, they might be a plan for the future, they might be an idea for an event, an idea for a new product or service or business.

What Do They Need To Hear?

You have 3 choices when someone shares their ideas with you:

  1. Most often they need you to pat them on the back and say “good on you” and for you to keep any reservations you have to yourself so they can learn the lesson that awaits them
  2. Sometimes they might need some constructive criticism to send them in a new direction that will save them a bit of time & effort
  3. And sometimes they need someone brave to say “it looks like you’ve given this your best shot, have you thought about ending this project and taking what you’ve learned, and applying that to a new project? What project might that be?”

Is Ending A Project A Total Loss?

Most of the time we think failed projects are a complete waste of time and money/resources.

It’s this kind of thinking that stops most of us from starting a new project in the first place.

But all projects (whether they were failures or successes) are great learning, aren’t they?

In fact, perhaps up to 80% of your new skills and knowledge could be applied to your next project, couldn’t they?

Where To From Here? My 3 Hopes For You

  1. I hope that the next time you are in the middle of a creative project and feel like quitting, you remember that you’re in the middle of this 6 phase process and to not give up too early!
  2. I hope that the next time someone tells you their idea, that you choose right when you decide if they need a pat on the back, some constructive criticism, or for someone brave to prompt them to end it.
  3. But most of all, I hope you start a new creative project today, because the world always needs cool people working on cool creations.

(P.S. I was able to trace the origins of this list back to a tweet by Marcus Romer in Oct 2013).

Heard About The NZ Cafe Owners Network?

The NZ Cafe Owners network is where cafe owners in a particular city are matched to a cafe owner in a neighbouring city.

They call each other once a fortnight (8pm on a Thursday night) to share marketing ideas to grow their businesses.

  • There is no competition because they are in different cities, so they are free to share any, and all, ideas
  • They are more likely to take action on the new ideas because they hear about how other owners have implemented them and what results the changes generated
  • If the pair run short on ideas to share, they are simply re-matched with a new cafe owner (this is encouraged)
  • They work such long hours, they can never find the time to read marketing books or search Google for marketing ideas
  • They work so hard inside their business they sorely need an outsiders perspective to identify weaknesses and opportunities and ask challenging questions
  • They realise that just providing “great food and great service” isn’t enough these days. That’s just the new baseline minimum that people expect

Sounds pretty awesome, right?

Well, it doesn’t exist, sorry.

It’s just an idea I had the other day.

If you’d like to start providing this service, I suggest the following steps:

  1. Pitch the idea to 3 cafe’s near you and 3 more in a neighbouring city
  2. Set appointments for the phonecalls for them and share the phone numbers
  3. Briefly interview them the next day to see how it went (write down their testimonials)
  4. Ask them if they are prepared to pay $10/month for the service. And if so, send them an invoice for the first month immediately

All the best!

coffee-queue-out-the-door
Is it every cafe owners dream to be so popular that there is a queue out the door and down the street, but no-body minds waiting because waiting is part of the experience and it’s just the cost of being a super-fan?

Start, Stop, Steal, Stick: What I’ve Learnt From 6 StartUp Weekends

tauranga-startup-weekendImagine walking into a room on a Friday night with an idea scribbled on a napkin, and walking out at the end of the weekend with a company, a team and even revenue!

That’s a typical StartUp Weekend.

“Startup Weekend works by delivering the opportunity to learn how to start a business and promoting entrepreneurship in local communities . This is an event that brings together developers, designers, marketers, product managers, startup enthusiasts and members of the community who can support them. Together they  share ideas, form teams, build products and launch startups- all in a 54 hour week-end.”

I lead a team to bring  to StartUp Weekend to Tauranga in 2012 and 2013, but I couldn’t spare the time in 2014. But instead of cancelling the event, 2 friends of mine offered to take it over and they did an amazing job.

They invited me to do an opening talk at the beginning of the 2014 event and I thought you might get some benefit of what I had to say.

Start

Be bold and start something new (not just this weekend).

What do we need?

  • We need more opportunities for awesome people to meet other awesome people face to face
  • More regular business breakfasts/lunches
  • More events like StartUp Weekend or TEDx or Pechacucha
  • Steal event formats from Auckland or New York or Beijing and bring them here

How?

  • With a team. Just like tonight, to attract a team around you, you need to share your vision of a better tomorrow

Own several domain names?

  • It’s great to get excited about that a domain name that is available and to buy it, but build something immediately while you’re excited

Stop

When somethings not working out for you anymore, don’t be afraid to stop.

It creates space for others to get involved and benefit from the experience.

I have 2 failures & 1 success to tell you about:

Example #1: Failure with ChickenCoops.co.nz

  • It was a network of chicken coop builders around New Zealand
  • In 12 months I sold $25,000 worth of chicken coops, yay! 🙂
  • But my commission was only 5%, boo! 🙁
  • So I earned just over $1000 for 250 hours of website building and admin which equals $5/hour, boo! 🙁
  • So I stopped (and sold the website to one of my suppliers for a few hundred dollars)

Example #2: Failure with RestaurantMarketing.co.nz

  • It was a series of articles about how Cafe’s, Restaurants and Bars could use the internet to get new customers and look after existing ones
  • The problem was the owners of these businesses are so busy, they don’t have time to spare to do a Google search for solutions like this
  • So I stopped (and let the domain name expire)

Example #3: Success with Tauranga StartUp Weekend

  • For the first time in my life I’ve left a legacy behind. I started something, but when I stopped, the event lived on. Yay!

Steal

Steal ideas whenever you see one and adapt it for your own use.

Spread your ideas to who-ever will listen.

Make your idea easy for others to spread.

Never ask anyone to sign a Non-Disclosure-Agreement before you’ll share with them – be thankful they are giving you 60 seconds.

They might turn into

  • a customer,
  • an investor,
  • a co-founder,
  • an advocate

Don’t put any barriers in the way of that chance.

An idea is just the very first step in a long and awesome journey.

Stick

Heard of “Mentor Whiplash”?

It’s when one mentor walks in and gives you great advice, but then the next mentor walks in and says the opposite!

It’s your project, so you make the decisions: stick to your vision, stick up a note that says “Mentors, we are deep in it, please come back at 2pm”

Stick with what your customers tell you is valuable.

Embrace mentors that just ask questions instead of give opinions.

Your Thoughts?

Agree? Disagree? Have your say in the comments below.

Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose by Tony Hsieh

Here are my notes on the book “Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose” by Tony Hsieh51oR41Z4zoL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_

Tony Hsieh is the CEO of Zappos, which is now wholly owned by Amazon and sells a wide range of items online, but made it’s start selling shoes online.

It’s the classic start-up story many of us dream of: a couple of friends get together and quit their jobs on the back on a single idea, they make it through the good times and bad times and desperate times to somehow scale it up to a billion dollar company within 10 years.

Here’s a collection of my favourite quotes from the book: Continue reading “Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose by Tony Hsieh”

How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big: Kind of the Story of My Life by Scott Adams

Here are my notes on “How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big: Kind of the Story of My Life” by Scott Adamsg-and-Still-Win-Big-Scott-Adams

Scott Adams is the author of the world famous Dilbert comic strip that make fun of life in an office cubicle.

Like his comic strip, this book is certainly amusing. He is a great story teller in super-short-form comics in which he has only a few panels, and in this long-form book in which he has hundreds of pages.

He has led an interesting life, and tells those stories and the lessons he learnt, but even more interestingly, he shares several counter-intuitive ideas that I’d like to share with you today. Continue reading “How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big: Kind of the Story of My Life by Scott Adams”

Only Prospects In Pain Will Buy: 6 Questions To Ask To Uncover Your Prospects Pain

Did you know that only a prospect in pain will buy a solution from you?

It’s true.

The more pain they feel, the higher the price they will pay, and the more they crave your solution if you can show them that you understand their pain.

If you have a warehouse full of widgets to sell, or a professional service that is hard to change, then the following advice is not going to work for you.

You need a clean slate for the following to work.

So, have you just been made redundant? Or maybe you’re considering a career change?

Great!

Congratulations!

You have the blank slate you need. The world is full of opportunities and you have everything you need to take advantage.

The following 6 steps will show you how to build a software business for yourself, from scratch.

Don’t worry, you don’t even have to know any code. All you need to know is how to ask questions.

Can you do that? Can you ask questions?

Step #1: Identify An Industry

It doesn’t matter which one! You don’t have to have experience in that industry, or a passion for it. Every industry has unmet needs that you can serve. Eg:

  1. Real estate
  2. Property development
  3. Cafe’s
  4. Lawyers
  5. Accountants
  6. Forestry
  7. Farming
  8. Banking
  9. Logistics
  10. Dentists
  11. Doctors
  12. Tourism
  13. Transportation
  14. Logistics
  15. Entertainment
  16. Vets

Step #2: Interview People In Your Chosen Industry

Interview 3 or 4 or 5 (or 10) managers in businesses in this industry.

For an introduction just say “Hey, I’m just doing some research into your industry, I just want to understand some of your painful problems, and find a way to improve your life”

In your interview include the following questions:

  1. What’s the most important activity in your business? Is there pain associated with that activity?
  2. What problems are costing you the most money in your business right now?
  3. What are the tasks that you do on a day-to-day basis? For each, how do you feel when you do that task? If you could wave a magic wand over that task what would you change?
  4. What are some pieces of software that you use that make you want to punch your computer?
  5. If you need to, focus their attention on different stages in the sales process: Pre-sale, during sale and post-sale. What are all the tasks at each stage?
  6. Keep asking “What else?” and “Tell me more!” until they are exhausted 🙂

Your goal here is to understand the problem better than the customer, better than the competition, better than anyone else.

Once you have narrowed it down to a couple of problems, ask “Have you tried to solve this problem in the past?”. Their response may give you price point ideas.

Step #3: Calculate How Much The Problem Costs

Once your identified the pain/problem, calculate specifically how much the problem costs them every year

For example, if a mundane task takes 15 minutes a day and your time is worth $50/hour then automating or eliminating that task is worth $3,062.50 per annum (0.25 hours x 5 days a week x 49 months a year x 50 an hour)

Another example, if you are a pool cleaner and 5% of customers are disputing their bills then that problem could be costing you $5,000 a year (0.05 of customers x 500 customers a year x $200 disputed).

Step #4: Pitch Your Solution

Once you have defined the problem clearly and accurately, the solution becomes obvious.

“If I had an hour to save the world I would spend 59 minutes defining the problem and one minute finding solutions” – Albert Einstein

And, even better, they’ll trust you to solve it: “If you can define the problem better than your target customer, then they will assume you have the solution.” – Dane Maxwell

Your prospective customers might think they need an all-inclusive solution but actually they don’t. Firstly, it’s impossible to build anyway. Secondly, they won’t buy it if you build it because it will cost them too much to implement and create too much change in their organisation. Your solution must not require them to change their behaviour too much.

Just deal with one problem and it’s one solution.

Next you ask them “So if I could create software that could solve problem x for you and it cost you $200/month, would you sign up?”.

Get pre-orders and pre-payment.

If you can’t get money from them in advance, then you haven’t discovered a painful enough problem so you’re going to have to ask more questions or interview someone else.

Step #5: Keep Selling. Don’t Build Yet

Don’t be tempted to start building the software yet.

Keep building up your pre-orders, keep selling. Keep building interest until you are getting emails every day from customers begging you to finish the software.

If you can get 100 customers signed up at $200/month that’s $20,000 per month ($240,000 per annum) you have to pay for sales calls and software development (and your salary).

Step #6: Build

Now it’s time to start building the software.

Build it lean. No bells and whistles. Make it solve a single problem.

To find a developer try elance.com.

3 Things You Can Do Next

  1. Pick an industry and book in your first interview tomorrow
  2. Attend a StartUp Weekend in NZ
  3. Sign up for more articles like this one:

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9 Companies, 90 Days, Worth $9 Million

Last week I went down to Wellington to the Lightning Labs demo day.

Lightning Labs is New Zealands first (and only) business accelerator.

For a bit of background, read my article about Lighting Labs that I wrote a couple of weeks ago.

90 days ago these 9 companies were worth zip, nada, nothing. And now they are worth about $1 Million dollars each.

How cool is that?

The 6 Elements That The Best Presentations Had In Common

  1. Each company was introduced by a passionate and experienced business person who had been a mentor
  2. The presentations were presented by passionate and energetic CEO’s
  3. The slides were simple, clear and did not distract, they kept the focus on the presenter
  4. First, they identified the problem/the pain and therefore, the opportunity
  5. Next, they presented their solution
  6. Last, they established credibility and made us sure they were the right team, with the right connections to make this happen

The 9 Companies From Lightning Labs

(In order of my favourite to least favourite)

1. Publons.com

“Publons is a platform for crowd-sourced peer-review of academic articles, where academics build reputation for their contributions.  It provides an alternative to the extremely slow, expensive, and closed status quo that hasn’t changed in 300 years.”

My Notes:

  • Amazing that they’ve taken on a system that has been in place for 300 years, broken it in half, and re-invented it for today
  • Nice they already have agreement for trials with a few major US based journal companies
  • Very promising. This was my favourite business idea of the day

2. eXpander.co.nz

“A cloud-based tracking and analytics platform that gives manufacturers a weapon to fight back against counterfeits, while connecting them to consumers and procuring valuable data in emerging markets.”

My Notes:

  • By 2015 there will be US$2 Trillion worth of counterfeit products on the streets. Wow.
  • The plan is to issue a unique QR code for every single individual product on every shelf in the world with for 10-15c each
  • Imagine a product being copied, and that duplicated QR code being scanned 10 times on the same day, the manufacturer would get GPS location of where these counterfeit goods are!
  • Certainly a huge global problem they are tackling here, and a interesting solution they are proposing

3. LearnKo.com

“LearnKo delivers online learning programs to English language organisations in Asia. We do this by harnessing the talent of Australasian tutors and delivering this via an online classroom to English language organisations.”

My Notes:

  • They really hammered the problem home by explaining that there are a billion people in Asian wanting to learn English and that the vast majority of english tutors have very poor english skills themselves!

4. WipVideos.com

“WIP is a beautifully simple video workflow platform that lets you watch, share and comment on your work-in-progress videos, so you get better feedback faster.”

My Notes:

  • They’ve already built the software and they already have clients!

5. KidsGoMobile.com

“KidsGoMobile are developing a software service to help parents teach their children to become responsible users of their first smartphone. This tool will notify parents if their child engages in potentially risky activity on their phone and gives them tips on how to resolve it.”

My Notes:

  • Interesting that a parent can’t hope to screen 1800 monthly text messages so it’s clear they need help
  • + I’m a bit shocked that it’s common for 8 year olds to get their first smart phone these days

6. questo.co.nz

“Questo is using game mechanics in real world activities to increase family engagement for organisations.”

My Notes:

  • For example, an Aquarium could use this service to create a treasure hunt for family’s who bring their ipads with them

7. promoki.com

“Promoki is a a social media gaming platform for photo and video contests.”

My Notes:

  • “The best advertising doesn’t feel like advertising”
  • It’s interesting that the act of asking and collecting responses is where the benefits to the brand are, not in the chosen winner, or the use of that winner in promotions, it’s those brand fans that are immersing themselves into the brand to create a piece of work

8. adeez.co

“Adeez provides a specialist mobile marketing solution which enables brands and marketing agencies to improve their ROI with mobile campaigns.”

My Notes:

  • It’s seems they are setting up themselves as a middleman between brands and advertising networks like Google Adwords… doesn’t that make them just another agency?

9. Teamisto.com

“Teamisto is changing the way sports clubs raise money by generating new streams of sponsorship revenue.”

My Notes:

  • … actually, I didn’t really understand this one

How to Create Start Up Companies Worth A Million Dollars Each In Just 90 Days

Did you meet Laura Rietel (and Nick Churchouse from Lightning Labs) on Thursday 2 May 2013?

If not, you missed a great night!

Laura shared her experience with Business Accelerators.

I loved her presentation style. No slides. Just a few notes, lots of stories, and lots of questions.

Casual and friendly, it felt less like a seminar and more like a chat with an wise friend.

If you didn’t already know, Business Accelerators like Lightning Labs in Wellington have 90 days to turn ideas worth zero into companies worth millions!

So if these accelerators take 90 days, what does everyone do for the other 275 days of the year?

Recover!

90 day business acceleration programmes are a very intense period for everybody:

  1. The participants who give up their lives, jobs, and family time for 90 days to be there
  2. The organisers who put in 12 hour, or 18 hour, or 20 hour days to ensure the teams have everything they need
  3. The mentors who pour in their expertise and knowledge (for free)
  4. The investors who pour in the money before day zero (when the companies are worth zero), on the hope that on day 90 they’ll be worth millions

It was interesting to hear how the top business accelerator in the world, TechStars, tried to cram 2 programmes into a single year and burnt out every stakeholder group involved.

If they can’t do it, no one can, so don’t even try.

Why Are Business Accelerators So Awesome?

  • Because you compress 2 years of business growth and learning into 90 days
  • Because a fast failure is a good thing
  • Pivots make you stronger (75% of teams pivot), but “spivots”, when you spin around and around make you dizzy
  • The value comes from the mentors advice and how you react to “mentor whiplash”, when you get conflicting advice. It’s up to you to extract what you can and make your decision
  • Mentors sometimes become investors, and sometimes the CEO!
  • The 5 most important factors: Team, Team, Team, Market, Idea
  • The best team have worked together for years
  • Teams are either 2 or 3 co-founders. Solo entrepreneurs don’t get in (unless they can find a co-founder before all the fun starts)
  • You can’t be the coder/tech and run the startup too. You can only wear one of those hats
  • You must be coachable. Don’t be precious. Don’t be defensive
  • It’s bloody hard work. You need support from your family
  • The hottest categories at the moment: Mobile, Cloud, Fashion, Education, Middleware

Who Pays? Who Gets Paid?

  • 50% funded by the Government for writing programmes, salaries for operations team, fixed costs and infrastructure
  • 50% funded by an Angel Investor Fund. In return the Angels get:
    • 6% stake in each accelerated company
    • Due diligence
    • The fast tracked, pressure cooker startup phase
  • Each participant gets $6000 to help them survive the 90 day period financially

Before You Create An Entrepreneurial Ecosystem In Your City…

  1. It must be led by entrepreneurs
  2. Take a long term view (20 years)
  3. Be inclusive. Embrace weirdness. Attract creativeness

Want to come to seminars like this?

You can subscribe to my email list and I’ll let you know about the next one: http://eepurl.com/pCoPX

Worried Someone Will Steal Your Awesome Idea? 7 Possible Reactions When You Share Your Idea

New ideas are exciting!

Sometimes great ideas wake you in the middle of the night (and at the time you are sure you’ll remember them so you don’t bother writing them down… oops).

Sometimes great ideas happen to you when you are alone (like in the shower, or in the car), and it’s so annoying that there isn’t someone right there you can tell it to.

Your new idea might be an invention, a solution to a problem, a decision, or an idea for a new business.

Do you ever find yourself hesitating before you share the idea with someone, because you are worried that they will steal it?

Well, let’s check how often that actually happens.

7 Possible Reactions When You Share Your Awesome Idea

  1. 43% of people you tell will be bored or just don’t care
    • Don’t be offended, they still love you, just not this idea
  2. 24% of people will see something you don’t see in the idea, and provide you with another idea to help you shape your one
    • This is the best possible reaction because now you’ve got something better than your initial idea
  3. 12% of people will point out that your idea is not new and where to find it already in existence
    • This is a great outcome, because you can either decide what your point of difference will be or put it aside and dream up a new idea
  4. 9% of people will spread your idea to more people
    • This is also a great outcome because you’ll benefit from this list of possible responses being repeated
  5. 7% of people will tell you why your idea sucks
    • That’s ok, because it’s good to get a reality check. You can ignore their criticism and plow on, or dump the idea and move on
  6. 5% of people will be inspired and offer their help to get you started
    • That’s a great result because 2 heads are better than 1
  7. 0% of people will steal it and set up in competition to you
    • Yes, that’s right, zero. The worry that someone will steal your idea is an illusion. And even if they do steal it, that’s the biggest compliment in the world

So, what do you think about this?

Have your say in the comments below.

(As always, these statistics are made up for dramatic purposes 🙂

Startup Communities – Building An Entrepreneurial Ecosystem In Your City by Brad Feld

My notes on “Startup Communities – Building An Entrepreneurial Ecosystem In Your City” by Brad Feld15822571

Give Before You Get

  • Boulder is an incredibly inclusive community. Although there is some competition between companies, especially over talent, the community is defined by a strong sense of collaboration and philosophy of “giving before you get.”
  • If you contribute, you are rewarded, often in unexpected ways.
  • At the same time especially since it’s a small community it’s particularly intolerant of bad actors. If you aren’t sincere, constructive, and collaborative, the community behaves accordingly


Continue reading “Startup Communities – Building An Entrepreneurial Ecosystem In Your City by Brad Feld”

9 Questions To Get You Started When You’ve Got An Idea For A StartUp Business

Heard of “a business plan”?

It’s how you plan your business, right?

Well, the bad news is that “business plans never survive first contact with customers” – Steve Blank.

This means that you can plan all you like, but real customers with real money in their pockets will buy what they want to, not what you’re selling.

So you are going to create a “business model” instead.

A business model has some elements of a “business plan” and some elements of a “marketing plan” but it’s better because it starts with your customers. And their opinion is the only opinion that matters really.

4 Initial Questions You May Be Thinking Right Now:

Q: “What the heck is a ‘business model’?” 

  • A business model is simply an understanding of how a business works. How it adds value, how it makes money
  • You can achieve that level of understanding by answering the 9 questions coming up soon.

Q: “Will doing this business model first help me win?”

  • Yes. Because if you sit down and work on this right now you get the first version of this business model finished in a couple of hours, then you’ll know what to build in Version 1.0 of your product
  • Then you can test Version 1.0 on real customers and use that feedback to build Version 2.0. If you have Version 3.0 and your competitors have Version 1.0, who will win? You will.

Q: “How long should it be?”

  • 3-5 pages is about right

Q: “Do we write it once and forget it? Or, do we rewrite it several times?”

  • It can (and must) change and evolve
  • You might rewrite it once or twice or three times (or 10 times). It will keep improving every time you try and sell to real customers.

Let’s get started!

It’s as easy as answering the following 9 questions.

9 Questions To Get You Started When You’ve Got An Idea For A StartUp Business

1. “Who is our ideal customer?”

We’ve already got our product/service in mind, but we need to forget that for a moment because we need to think about our customers first. So our first question is “who is our ideal customer?”.

 

Describe them here using bullet points or a short paragraphs.

 

“Our ideal customer is…

 

 

2. “What problems do our ideal customers have?”

Customers will buy from us to solve a problem they have. What is that problem (or problems)? What is their pain?

 

List the top 1-3 problems they have.

 

 

2b How do they solve that problem without us at the moment? What are their alternatives until we’re ready to serve them?

 

 

3. “What’s the solution?”

For each problem we listed, we will outline a possible solutions here.

 

 

4. “What’s our sales pitch?”

Now we have a picture of our ideal customer, we have identified their problems, we’ve outlined a solution, now it’s time to craft our sales pitch.

 

Imagine we have just 30 seconds to turn a stranger into someone interested in buying from us. What would we say? What story would we tell? What are we offering? How are we different? What’s in it for them? If we’re offering something brand new we might need to use existing products to help people understand what it is we do. Eg “We are Flickr which is like YouTube for photos”

 

 

4b. “What headlines could use on our landing page?”

Now that you’ve got your sales pitch, write a shorter version of it that could be a headline on the landing page of your website. For example, if you want to capture their email address, what headline and bullet points are going to convince them they want what you’ve got?

Write several alternatives here.

 

 

5. “How do we get our message to our customers?”

What advertising will we do? Will we need to hire salespeople? How would they find customers? How will we build in viral elements to help our service spread to new customers? How will we incentivise our customers to get their friends/family to buy from us in a way that makes our product/service even better and more social?

 

 

6. “How will we make money?”

Will we charge per month? Per year? For life? Per use? Per user? Will we offer a “Freemium” version? A “Premium” version? Sell to corporates? Sell to the end user? Get sponsorship? Sell advertising space? Sell for $1.29 in the App store?

 

 

7. “What are our costs?”

What will it cost to stay in business? What are our “fixed” costs like building, salaries etc? What are our “variable” costs that increase as our sales increase? List them here and make guesses at the amounts. How much cash do we need to start for our start-up? How long will that cash last?

 

 

8. “What ‘key metrics’ will we use to measure success?”

What are the most importants numbers to us? Eg: How many subscribers we have? New users per month? Amount of data being processed per week? Web visitors? Web-visitor-to-Customer conversion rate?

 

 

9. “What’s our advantage?”

What is our “secret sauce”? What do we have that can’t be easily copied or bought? What will stop or slow down new competitors from taking customers from us?

 

 

What’s Next?

Once you’ve gone through these questions for the first time, it’s time to start building version 1.0 of your product so you can get it infront of customers as quick as you can and get that feedback that you need.

 

Constantly revisit your answers to these questions and change your responses according to what real customers are telling you they will pay for.

 

Where did these questions come from?

These questions are based on the work of Ash Maurya who created a business model generator called “The Lean Canvas”. You can work through “The Lean Canvas” for free on his website http://leancanvas.com/. Ash Maurya’s model is actually an adaption of another model called “The Business Model Canvas” first created by Alex Osterwalder.

5 Co-Working Spaces in Auckland, The 6 Lessons I Learnt

Last week I visited all 5 of the co-working spaces in Auckland:

  1. Movers & Shakers, Auckland Central, Dion Bettjeman
  2. Loft503, Auckland Central, Matt Knight 
  3. Generator, Auckland Central, Ryan Wilson
  4. The Kitchen, Grey Lynn, Auckland, Murray Sheard
  5. Bizdojo, Auckland Central, Nick Shewring

I am honoured that every single one of the founders/owners made time for me and my questions. I loved hearing their stories.

6 Lessons I Learnt About Setting Up A Co-Working Space in New Zealand:

1. Set The Stage

  • Set the style
  • Set the theme
  • Set the scene
  • Set the culture
  • Set the values
  • and you will attract those that want to belong

2. Have Wow Factor

  • Have wow factor when people walk in the door
  • Eg 1 Movers And Shakers has a giant inflatable brain-shaped meeting room, all lit up with LED’s + the desks made with old pallets and ply wood + globes of light hang down at irregular heights
  • Eg 2 Loft503 has sleek modern high-end glossy black furniture
  • Eg 3 Generator has a bar in the lounge with a full time barman/barista
  • Eg 4 The Kitchen has a lunchroom kitchen where they all get around the dinning room table for lunch every day
  • Eg 5 The Bizdojo has set up a creative space (across the road, called a “co.space”) which has high-end business machines, a photography studio,  3D printing, and industrial sewing machines. Their attitude is “we have built it so come and use it and create something awesome”

3. Party Lots

  • I’m not talking about boozing, I’m talking about making a place for people to come and talk with each other
  • If you’re huge, host weekly get-togethers for the co-workers to ensure they mingle
  • At least every month host a get-together for the co-workers, their networks, and other connected people you know (and want to know) in your city
  • This is just about the only marketing you need. People experience the space and tell others about it, and these messages filter through the eco-system to potential co-workers

4. Hot-Deskers Are Not A Gold Mine

  • If you think providing desks for hot deskers is a gold mine, think again
  • Their commitment is low, the terms are short, your income from them is small, and worst of all, the disruption to permanent co-workers is high
  • To make money on them you have to oversell the space (just like gyms do), and hope they don’t all turn up on the same day (don’t worry, the chances are low)
  • The lesson for me is: Have 1 or 2 hot desks that people can use to trial the space for a few days or a week and then sell them on a permanent spot

5. You Are A Connector

  • As the founder, it’s your job to help your co-workers succeed. Do lots of one-on-one sessions. If they don’t succeed, it’s your fault
  • Help them discover what they need, and then help them get it
  • Help them out grow you
  • Connect them with who and what they need to connect with
  • Delegate and share jobs amongst the co-workers. This eases the burden on you and helps them give back to the community

6. Co-Working Is Living The Future, Today

  • Over a hundred years ago factories were invented. Thanks to the internet now you don’t have to work in a factory, you can work for yourself, in your bedroom, wearing your pj’s and work for clients that you choose
  • The problem is, even with all this awesome hardware (Smart Phones, Laptops, Tablets, PC’s – which are so cheap you can have all 4) and communication software (Email, cheap mobile calls, SMS, Facebook, Skype), you can be “connected” but lonely and isolated at the same time
  • That’s were co-working is awesome because it brings the face-to-face back into your life that so many of us crave. Here are 14 more reasons why co-working is awesome.
  • (If you are going to continue wearing pj’s to your co-working space, at least get ones with a very secure button at the front)

Photos of Auckland’s Co-Working Spaces:

IMG_4585
The inflatable brain (meeting room) in the centre of Movers & Shakers, Britomart

 

Crates and Desks at Movers and Shakers
Workspaces made from pallets and plywood at Movers and Shakers

 

The sleek modern high-end glossy black furniture at Loft503
The sleek modern high-end glossy black furniture at Loft503 (in this case, the kitchen)

 

IMG_4596
Sleek, shiny, classy furniture at Loft503 (in this case, the 90secondsTV corner)

 

The fulltime barista/bar tender at Generator
The fulltime barista/bar tender at Generator

 

IMG_4600
The “Plaque of Legends” at Generator. Who is the pie eating champion this month?

 

IMG_4617
The “maker-space” at Biz Dojo

 

15 Reasons Why Co-Working In The City Centre Is Awesome

This article is for those of you who are working from home right now, and it’s purpose is to show you what you could gain from moving out of home into a co-working space in the city centre.

This is part 2 of 2. Read part one: 5 Reasons Why Working From Home Sucks

I worked from home for 3.5 years.  I have now been in a co-working space for 10 weeks, and now I realise what I was missing out on.

15 Good Reasons Why Co-Working In The City Centre Is Awesome

1. Growing your business is good

In a co-working space you can network without even trying. You don’t have to go out in the evenings for networking when you can network with your co-workers and the people they bring in everyday.

It’s easy to generate new business when you are in a co-working space because you quickly become comfortable sharing your clients around, sticking to your strengths, and outsourcing the jobs you don’t like to make room for the jobs you do like.

2. Collaborating is good

Imagine being a few metres away from 2 marketing guys, a designer/web/seo guy, an architect, a film guy, and a programmer guy.

Imagine being able to dream up start-up businesses on a Monday and have it generating it’s first customers on Friday.

Imagine being able to tell a client “what you need next is high quality video for your website, that’s Jono’s speciality actually and we share an office together”.

3. Commuting is good

Use the commute for exercise (ride your bike), or for listening to audio-business-books, or if you bus, you can engage with your family and friends via Facebook.

Don’t listen to music or to the radio because you’ll get *37% angrier in traffic jams.

4. Casual chats around the water-cooler are good

Heard of cross-polination of ideas? It’s amazing how often ideas and concepts in one field can apply to a seemingly unrelated field. It’s those casual chats around the water cooler on breaks that can provide the breakthrough moments with projects you are stuck on.

5. Getting distracted is good

You might think that working in a co-working space would be distracting.

It is.

But it’s a good thing.

A good distraction is one that creates a mental break so when you return to your task you feel refreshed.

*73% of distractions in a c0-work context can actually be applied to your work in some way. But only *18% of distractions in your home office are useful.

The policy in our office is: If my headphones are on, please don’t disturb me. If they’re off, let’s chat, unless it looks like I might be ‘in the zone’.

6. Celebrating successes is good

We have a bicycle bell that we ring when anyone makes a sale. It’s good to celebrate your successes, big and small, with others.

7. Being invited to things is good

A co-working space is like a family and so you inherit brothers and sisters who work near you everyday. You’ll get invitations for events and gatherings during lunch or in the evenings. You might say no to some, but you’ll say yes to lots.

You’ll get more invitations than you would have from your home office.

You’ll make new friends, grow your network, find clients, and most importantly tell your story and make mental notes to change your story the next time you tell it. You’ll be inspired by other peoples stories.

8. Being watched is good

Just having people near you that might catch you wasting time surfing the web creates a pressure to not waste your time.

This is different from a office cubicle as a employee where you often have privacy on your screen and can get away with it. In a co-working space you often have your screen in an open plan environment in view of others.

9. Feedback is good

Did you know that you are an awesome decision making machine? Some decisions are big, others a small. Obviously feedback on your big decisions is good, but feedback on little decisions is good too. This isn’t about changing your mind based on every little bit of feedback, it’s about simply taking it into account and being informed. This helps you make better decisions.

Feedback via phone, email or text message is cold. Face to face feedback is rich and full. You’ll be able to read facial expressions, body language, gauge their interest with their level of eye contact, and use your  internal lie detector to discard some of the things they say.

10. Corporate meeting space for clients is good

You didn’t want clients in your home so you never invited them, so you were left with cafes which are often too noisy and busy.

You look like a pro with several meeting rooms to choose from, and your clients pick up the creative vibe from the space too.

11. Different scenery is good

What’s on your computer screen may change everyday but what’s on your wall, floor, desk, and outside the window doesn’t change much.

In a co-working space in town, you’ll see different things every day – interesting looking people on the street (and in the office), funny accidents, serious accidents, emergency vehicles zooming past that make you wonder where they are going, street parades, protest marches, day time stag and hen parties.

Some will make you smile, some will make you laugh, some might make you sad, some might make you angry, sometimes you’ll care, sometimes you won’t.

The point is, you’ll have a emotional reaction and we are emotional beings and we need to flex our emotions like we flex our muscles to be healthy.

12. Having work stories is good

When you get home from the office you might have a story or 2 to tell your family about your day.

Working from home you won’t.

The best you’ll do is “I got this email from this guy and his punctuation was all over the place!”

13. Home baking is good

Every week we have one of our spouses cook up some home baking for us to bring in and share. Yum!

14. Time away from your family is good

It’s good to get home and having the kids say they missed you. It makes you appreciate your time together in the mornings, evenings and weekends.

And you get the freedom to linger at home for half a morning or half a day anytime you want.

15. Being asked what you do again and again is good

Being more social means that you’ll get asked “so, what do you do?” a lot.

You can use this opportunity to refine your “elevator pitch” everytime you say it (or just say something weird and see how people react).

Either way you get to listen to yourself. If you don’t actually like what you’re saying you get to come to the co-working space and re-invent yourself with the help of your work mates.

What Do You Think?

Disagree? Agree? Got more to add to the list? Let me know in the comments below.

Join Us?

I work in a co-working space in Tauranga city called Studio64. Would you like to join us?

Call me on (07) 575 8799 and you can come for a visit. Check out our Facebook group to see what’s happening.

Elsewhere in New Zealand? Have a look at NZStartUps.co.nz and find one near you.

*All statistics used in this article were made up.

This is part 2 of 2. Read part one: 5 Reasons Why Working From Home Sucks

5 Reasons Why Working From Home Sucks

This article is for those of you who are working from home right now, and it’s purpose is to show you what you could gain from moving out of home into a co-working space in the city centre.

This is part 1 of 2. Read part two: 15 Reasons Why Co-Working In The City Centre Is Awesome.

I worked from home for 3.5 years.  I have now been in a co-working space for 10 weeks, and now I realise what I was missing out on.

5 Reasons Why Working From Home Sucks

1. You get lonely and depressed

Are you the type of person who has the need for face to face time with other humans built into you? I think most of us do.

A day full of phone calls, emails, Twitter, Facebook – all these interactions don’t satisfy this need.

Ever wonder why you feel glum or depressed when you’ve spent long periods alone? It’s because interacting with other people releases endorphines into your brain and make you feel good.

Solitary confinement is the worst punishment that prisons have in their arsenal for a reason. It breaks even the most solitary of people. So why imprison yourself?

2. Your ideas are smaller

Let’s face it, are your best ideas the ones that you come up with on your own, or the ones that you refine again and again after you bounce them other other people?

3. You get distracted

No one might be walking behind you and bust you for watching porn or pointless YouTube videos or reading the news.

4. You a turning weird

Without frequent social interaction you’ll develop weird personality traits.

And the worst thing is that you won’t know that you’re turning weird.

 5. You work too much (or not enough)

Working at home you’ll either work too much (eg checking your email as soon as you wake at 5.30am, or at 10pm at night), or at the weekends at the expense of family or social time.

Or you’ll work too little and give in to distractions or procrastination.

What Do You Think?

Disagree? Agree? Let me know in the comments below.

*All statistics used in this article were made up.

This is part 1 of 2. Read part two: 15 Reasons Why Co-Working In The City Centre Is Awesome.

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.

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.

Small Business Website: Do It Yourself For Only $141.50

If you don’t have a website for your small business, then take some comfort in the fact that you are not alone.

Did you know that only about one third (to one half) of New Zealand businesses have a website?

The 5 Most Common Objections I Hear From Owners:

When asked why they don’t have a website, owners typically come up with one or more of the following objections.

(Have similar thoughts gone through your head? If so, it’s time to update your thinking.)

1. “I don’t know how, I’m not good with computers”

  • Then learn. Or at least find a family member or staff member to take care of the basics.

2. “Websites cost too much”

  • Wrong. They can cost as little as $141.50+gst/year. I’ll tell you how in a moment.

3. “I don’t think I’ll get a return on the investment”

  • Wrong. A simple website is the best return on investment you can get. It beats all other advertising options. And the payback gets better and better the longer you’ve got a website

4. “That’s not how customers choose a business”

  • Wrong. It may not be how you choose a business but it is the way that hundreds of thousands of New Zealanders do it. Plus more every day

5. “I’m too busy, I don’t have time to keep it updated”

  • Keep the content simple. Don’t do anything fancy. Delegate to family or staff.

The 4 Best Reasons To Have An Official Website:

Ask owners who do have a website why they do, you might hear things like…

1. “Our website is the official place where I own and control the content”

  • That’s right. No longer are you at the mercy of business directories like Finda who display your brand however they like

2. “Our website is the official place where the public can be confident and trust the info because they know we wrote it”

  • That’s right. Otherwise you are annoying potential customers by forcing them to use a business directory like Finda that has missing, incomplete or just plain wrong details. Wouldn’t it be better if they went to your official website instead?

3. “We noticed that the public are increasingly using the internet at home, at work and even on their phones wherever they are, to choose a business”

  • That’s right. Having your own website means you get to appear in search results and get a chance at being chosen. Isn’t that better than no chance at all?

4. “We’d prefer to have an upset customer contact us via our website rather than complain publicly on Facebook or a business directory”

  • That’s right. Not having an official website effectively forces upset customers to vent their frustration on platforms like Facebook where you have zero control and you won’t hear about the complaint until it’s too late to fix it, or never hear about it at all.

What You Should Do Next:

If you are a small business owner and you don’t have a website yet, here’s the 5 steps you should take next:

The 5 Simple Steps To Take If You Want An Official Website

1. Go to 1stdomains.co.nz and purchase your website address for $21.50+gst/year

  • Get a .co.nz (not a .net, or .net.nz or anything else!)
  • Set the DNS settings to ns1.ramsu.co.nz and ns2.ramsu.co.nz

2. Go to the website hosting company Ramsu.co.nz and purchase hosting for $120+gst/year

  • Type in the domain name you purchased
  • Create a database using the admin panel and write down the username and password

3. The next day, go to WordPress.org and download the latest version of their free website building software

  • WordPress is high quality Content Management System that is easy to use. If you get stuck, any problem can be solved with a Google search
  • Follow the set up instructions written on WordPress.org called “the famous 5 minute install

4. Login for the first time and start writing content

  • Keep it simple. No fancy stuff. Just the basics that prospective customers want to know
  • Phone number + address + Google Map + your products and services + testimonials. That’s it.
  • If you check your email once a week, don’t you dare put your email address on your website

5. Register your new website address with Finda.co.nz (and a few other free business directories too)

  • This just gives Google a kick to announce that your website is up and running

Still Too Hard?

Then ask a family member or staff member to help.

They teach this stuff in primary school now, so find a 10 year old and get on with it.

The Toilet Paper Entrepreneur by Mike Michalowicz

téléchargerMy notes on “The Toilet Paper Entrepreneur” by Mike Michalowicz

This book had excellent structure, but I’ve only made notes on the sections I found most interesting, so you might find these notes jump around a bit.

Launching Businesses

  • I loved entrepreneurialism. I could talk about business all day, read every magazine, attend every seminar, and still my thirst would not be quenched. It took me a few years to figure out what was sitting right under my nose the entire time: That I loved launching businesses.
  • Once I came to the realization that it is the birthing and maturing of a business that I love, I knew the path my future would follow.

Continue reading “The Toilet Paper Entrepreneur by Mike Michalowicz”