It's really easy to know when to do laundry in college. Check the number of days you've been wearing the same underwear.
Monday, March 26, 2007
1) Adoption Curve. As a new service on the market, even with no charges to the groups, we are still subject to the same adoption curve that other services are subject to. Some groups are afraid of trying anything new and unproven for the chance that it fails. Other groups are more willing to take the plunge and try a new service. Right now we're in the very early stages of adoption, and so what we're going to want to do is leverage the reputations of the groups we've already had sign up to show later adopters that it's okay to use the service.
2) Demand for Online Ticket Sales. Right now, there are not a ton of students buying tickets online to student group shows, and there are many explanations that we will have to explore to figure out why that's not happening. I think the main reason is because there is still the stigma around online ticket sales that it will inherently be more expensive than buying in person. I know I don't buy movie tickets online for exactly that reason. For a show like Mask & Wig, there is a $3.24 service charge for one student ticket online. This cost does not adequately serve the vast majority of the student market segment, which leaves room for another player like Locobuzz to enter. So our real challenge is to re-educate buyers and change their buying habits to the online environment. It's a fairly daunting task, but the firm that successfully achieves this redirection of buying habits (campusfoods.com for instance) gains a defensible market position from brand identification with the category.
The only other question about the demand for online ticket sales is the extent to which impulse buying occurs in student group ticket sales. To what extent are students walking down Locust Walk, seeing a friend in a student group, and only then deciding to buy a ticket to the show. Is direct selling from group members on the walk driving ticket sales, or do the other advertising messages create impetuses/motivation at other times for college students to buy tickets online? The market who only buys from friends on Locust Walk may not be the demographic we're looking to serve. Our consumer may be the student who keeps forgetting to buy tickets on the walk and so they buy from Locobuzz to make sure they have a ticket to the show while they are thinking about it. As much as possible, we want to be expanding the number of people who buy tickets to shows rather than simply redirecting current buying habits.
To change these perceptions and more, we will have to create a widespread marketing campaign that accelerates adoption and reeducates buyers. As awareness increases, we need to also make sure people are believing that we're a low cost ticket seller because the convergence of those two aspects will create the real growth we're looking for.
Posted by Stu Stein at 1:55 PM
Sunday, March 25, 2007
One of the coolest things about the web is how quickly you get feedback. Andrew sent out wetcnu.com to some people but not his whole distribution list, so he's been getting a lot of real life feedback. Some of the comments on his welcome video have not exactly reflected the message he wanted to send, and so before he sends it out, he can redo the video for public consumption. In addition, he used Google Analytics and saw that "The Facts" page wasn't getting that many hits, so he changed the name to "Survey Results" and we'll see if that changes the number of people looking at the page. By checking metrics and staying up to date with users comments, he gets a second chance to make his website more clear for the masses.
In Principles of Advertising, the professor told us that this is especially prevalent in internet advertising. Because Internet advertising is so cheap, companies can test multiple executions of an ad to find out which one gets the best result. She told us that some financial companies even change their ads on an hourly basis. Pretty cool stuff.
Friday, March 23, 2007
My best friend, Andrew, goes to a 5,000 person school in southern
The alcohol policy has quickly led to deterioration in the schools social scene, and as a result, student pride in CNU is low for a college. Andrew sent out an alcohol survey and received over 1000 responses (at a 5,000 people school), which found that 1/3 of students left campus at least once a month to go party elsewhere. In addition about 1/5 of the school was so dissatisfied with CNU, that they had applied to another school, and 83% of those people cited the social scene as one of their reasons for leaving. That's insane. For Penn kids, could you imagine about 3,300 student leaving campus at least once a month, or having 2,000 students applying to other colleges? The scale of dissatisfaction is almost unimaginable to me.
So Andrew, along with some advice from me, started a website called WetCNU.com and I just wanted to comment on some of the features on the site which are really meant to persuade, get people involved, and make it a grass roots movement.
- Alcohol Survey. The first thing that Andrew did was send out an alcohol survey gauging attitudes toward the alcohol policy. It was an email survey sent out the week before spring break, and he got a 43% response rate on that survey. That's unheard of. What that says to me is that people are dying to get their opinions heard, and a repeating theme in the responses he got was that students didn't feel like the administration was listening to them. The survey revealed just how strongly people felt about the alcohol policy too. 77% of students agreed that it should be overturned, and 55% strongly agreed. That’s over half the student population who feels strongly about it. One of the most important parts of the survey was the comments section, which Andrew didn’t put in originally, but once he did, he got a huge inflow of people telling him what they thought about the alcohol policy. Always leave room for additional comments on a survey.
He also used the survey as a way to collect interest on the alcohol policy. He used a permission based marketing approach, where he asked people at the end of the email if they were interested in getting updates on the issue, and about ¼ of the respondents opted-in for more information. His goal was to get about 400-500 emails on his interest list so that when he released WetCNU.com, he could send out to at least 10% of the student population. That puts him farther up on the S-curve so that he can reach critical mass and the tipping point sooner.
- Andrew met with administers. One of the most important steps was to make sure that he didn’t blindside the administration with a campaign. They needed to know it was coming so that they wouldn’t automatically become defensive. They needed to see that Andrew wasn’t a crazy student who just wanted to drink. The administration needs a negotiating partner who is rational and has a head on his shoulders. Otherwise they have no option but to be defensive. Open up the dialogue early, so nothing’s a surprise.
The Website (okay so I got a little sidetracked, but now I’m going to talk about the website, which has a number of very cool features)
- Website name. The website name was a steal. WetCNU.com is a short (six letters) easily rememberable domain. Length and complexity really do matter when it comes to creating domain names
- Video on the homepage. Originally Andrew was going to have an open letter to the CNU community on the homepage, but I really pushed him to put up a video. With writing, you get a few dimensions with words and tone. With a video, though, you get so much more. People get the emotional aspects of seeing and hearing someone speak to them. They get a feeling for whether the person is a rational and passionate person who is ready to lead them, or whether they are a social reject who shouldn’t be taken seriously. It gives a face to the campaign and allows people to jump on board and follow him.
- Opinions page. He also put in an opinions page where people can go and post their comments and vote for other people’s comments. This really gives the social networking feel that’s important to get people involved and take ownership of the issue. The longer people are staying at the site to read and write about other people’s opinions, the more likely they are to get involved.
- Because We Aren’t In High School Anymore. While the tagline may sound funny to anyone outside of CNU, it strikes a real chord with CNU students. They often feel like they’re being babied by the administration rather than treated like college students.
- Petition. We also wanted an online petition, which would give people a reason to forward the site on to other people. When you tell people to help you get a certain number of signatures, it helps them to join in on your cause and spread your message. It also shows support to the administration for the cause. He’s also collecting email addresses again, so if there need to be some kind of activism in the future, he has a mailing list to send out to.
- The Facts. He also made a PDF with the survey results for everyone to see. This page allows him to go to the administration with some hard evidence. He’s also going to put up a history of the alcohol policy, which gets people riled up because of some of the injustices. The school has only been dry since the 90’s.
Anyway, there’s a ton of cool little things he put into the site that serve a certain purpose. Take a look and check it out. I think you’ll find it interesting.
Tuesday, March 20, 2007
So after a rocky start with Locobuzz, we got our first two groups to sign up. Early adoption is not easy, and at the end of the day, the early adopters I got were from close friends who I begged. So two acapella groups, Pennchants (headed by Jim Ballas) and DisChord (headed by Andrew Pollen), agreed to post their events on Locobuzz. I couldn't be happier, and it's one of those things that I won't forget about those guys. You remember who comes through in a crunch.
I am also doing a test research assignment for a consulting firm out in Cali that I applied to. Happy days.
Posted by Stu Stein at 12:08 AM
Sunday, March 18, 2007
Entrepreneurship is filled with bumps in the road, right? The key is to be fast, flexible and on top of your game. Well we've just run into our second round of bumps, and that's getting groups to use our ticketing service. We presented at the Performing Arts Council last week, and told them the service was going to be free for the rest of the year. People seemed pretty positive and interested, and we made sure that they know that we're looking to be partners with them in making a great service. Since then, there have been rumors that we're trying to get the whole Penn campus hooked so that we can hike prices and marvel in our Benjamins. Only at Penn.
Not only is this claim baseless - it doesn't make economic sense. Right now, we're trying to position ourselves as the low cost provider of ticket sales, specifically for the cheap ticket market. The margins are tiny and the next lowest cost provider charges $1.75 per ticket. Even if the groups were afraid that we were going to do the worst kind of price gouging, we have a price ceiling of $1.75. Economically, new entrants seeking cost leadership lower prices - they don't raise them.
The worst reason I've heard so far (and on multiple occasions) is that the student group has already printed out their flyers without "buy tickets on locobuzz," so how will anyone know where to buy a ticket? When I suggest just putting a link on their Facebook event listing, they give me a wish-washy answer and tell me they don't really want to. It's not even like it's going to cost them to put anything up on Locobuzz! It's free! We even have an invite system so they can send out emails telling people about it. Oy vey.
The worst part about it is the awful feeling inside that you worked so hard on something for a year with nothing but the best intentions, and then you take it to your initial groups who are suspicious that you're trying to dick them over. Nothing could be farther from the truth. I just want to make online ticketing so cheap and easy for student groups that it becomes ubiquitous. Kids can use their credit cards, show up for shows, and get in easy. I want to walk through the library and see Locobuzz up on peoples' screens and know that I made campus life just a little bit better and easier.
Anyway, the marketing snafu certainly won't stop us. Sales is sales, and we're going to keep calling student groups. If we can't do it at Penn, we'll go somewhere else, because I know we got something of value for student groups - we just have to find the right place to have it take off.
And the learning point of the day? The first tenet of marking - perceptions are everything. Rationally, Locobuzz makes more sense than what the student group is currently doing. But we're dealing with perceptions, and while some may say that's "unfair," it's reality. Now we have to figure out how to fight those perceptions. If you got any ideas, definitely leave a comment.
Saturday, March 17, 2007
My dad always said that compliments are the cheapest form of compensation he can give to the people who work for him. Jason and I were having a discussion the other night about how to give and take compliments. Jason was saying that he doesn't give a ton of compliments, and he feels like it motivates people more when he does give compliments since they are few and far between. It got me thinking, and I think that frequency of compliments play a roll in how a single compliment is taken, but at the same time, I think the sincerity with which a compliment is given is also important. I do often feel that people who give me a lot of compliments are just easily impressed. Because the comments aren't something I have to work for, I don't really value and internalize their compliment the way I would from someone that I don't often get compliments from. At the same time, I have friends who are quite liberal with compliments, and it achieves a different goal: I find those people more likable.
The key, however, is sincerity. Dale Carnegie, in his best-selling (15 million copies sold) book How to Win Friends & Influence People, says:
"The difference between appreciation and flatter? That is simple. One is sincere and the other insincere. One comes from the heart out; the other from the teeth out. One is unselfish; the other selfish. One is universally admired; the other universally condemned."What makes barrages of compliments work is that the other person is sincere. It's just how their personality works. And you can't help but love those people.
So the takeaway is that we all have different complimenting styles, and different styles achieve different objectives. I am definitely more like Jason, in that I don't give compliments often, but when I do give them I mean it. I am sure there's much more that goes into the art of complimenting - what do you guys think?
Friday, March 16, 2007
In marketing, we also talked about this idea that we like to see attributes of people in black and white: good people and bad people, smart people and dumb people. We love using past behavior to predict future outcomes because when you don’t feel like you know what to expect from a person, you lose control. People have a basic need for control and to be able to predict the future.
The same applies to motivation: we tend to see people as either motivated or unmotivated. While this holds some weight that some people are more motivated to get things done in general than other people, it doesn’t really get to the heart of the issue. You have to ask a couple questions, like “Motivated about what?” I worked with one women in one of my extracurricular activities, who never got her job done. She nearly always forgot about meetings or ignored her duty, and other people had to fill in for her. I thought she was flakey, unmotivated, etc. But that was only toward this particular job. When it came to women’s rights, she flourished, putting together discussions and awareness campaigns. At the end of the day it wasn’t because she wasn’t motivated as a person, she just wasn’t motivated about this project, and there’s a difference. Cameron Johnson stated clearly in his book that he wasn’t motivated by school, and he dropped out before finishing college. But he was clearly motivated by business, since he started twelve businesses in twelve years. When you’re leading people in extracurricular activities, I had to realize that there was no way I could “make” anyone do anything. I had to find things about my projects that motivated people to get things done. John C. Maxwell, a famous management author, says that the strength of a leader can be measured by their effectiveness in a volunteer organization where no one is forced to follow your leadership because of a paycheck.
I think there’s one more issue that goes into motivation, as well though, and it’s the question of whether a person knows how to be motivated. One of my friends’ little brother, has done awful in school, and he plays video games all the time. In fact, that’s what inspires him – video games. He wants to write story lines for video games. But he doesn’t know how to tap into that inspiration to find motivation.
Guy Kawasaki, a venture capitalist, recently wrote about a researcher, Carol Dwek, who studied why some people succeed and others don’t. What Dwek found were that there are people with fixed mindsets and others with growth mindsets. People with fixed mindsets had an inherent belief that they were fixed – that they couldn’t change. If a problem came along that was too difficult that they didn’t know how to do, they just gave up. People with growth mindsets, on the other hand, believe that life is about growing as people and learning new things. When they get a hard challenge, they see it as something to overcome, and they learn new skills to complete the task. Kawasaki does a great job in his article, giving applications of the mindsets even in brilliant people, but it applies to motivation too. If something inspires you, but you don’t grow to meet the challenges of that inspiration, you will never find your motivation. That’s a more deep-seated problem that you need to figure out.
Thursday, March 15, 2007
We learned about cognitive dissonance in marketing today, which I had actually learned back in Psych 001. Our professor of course talked about the classic study, where subjects were asked to perform a mundane, horribly boring task, and then was asked to lie to the next person waiting outside and tell them the activity was fun as a favor to the researcher. The subject would either be compensated with $1 or $20, and almost all the subjects in the study did it. When the subjects were called a week later and asked whether they liked the task, the people who were paid $1 had a statistically more positive response to the activity than their baseline attitudes, and those who were paid $20 had no change in attitude toward the activity. The idea that explained it was cognitive dissonance because people could not hold the two thoughts ("I am a honest person" and "I told someone a lie") at the same time without some way of rationalizing it. As a result, the people who got paid $20, used the $20 as their rationalization, whereas those people who were compensated $1 changed their belief about the activity so that they weren't liars. (I apologize if I butchered the explanation - look it up on Wikipedia.)
Anyway, the most interesting application of this concept was in Vietnam. Many of the US soldiers who were prisoners of war didn't come home after the war and stayed in Vietnam. The US military started doing investigations into why that might be. Apparently, the prisoners were kept in cages, and they were offered incentives like a little more rice or some time outside of their cage if they wrote an anti-US essay. The soldiers saw no harm in this and started writing anti-US essays. One essay didn't change any soldier's mind, but after stacks and stacks of essays, the soldiers had thoroughly become brainwashed against the US. After the war, major cognitive dissonance took place, and even those soldiers who returned the US weren't quite right and had trouble living in the US. There were a couple of keys to this working. First, it had to be on the soldier's own volition to write the essay - it couldn't be forced by gunpoint. Second, the incentives needed to be small enough so they soldier could not explain his anti-US sentiments away by the size of the reward. While I didn't quite get how cognitive dissonance directly applies to marketing (although I have no doubt that it does), I thought it was an interesting application to share.
Wednesday, March 14, 2007
So we finally did it - we finally launched our new business Locobuzz.com. Literally one year ago, Jason and I were coming home from Vail, and Jason said to me, "Hey, we should start a business together." From that discussion and many more came Locobuzz.com, which is an online ticketing and calendaring website for Penn. We thought it'd work perfectly at Penn because right now very few student groups sell tickets online. You can really only pay in cash on the walk or at the door, and the individual student websites just don't get enough traffic to warrant ticket sales. So we put together Locobuzz.com, and we're hoping it's going to act like a mall, aggregating all that traffic in one place. We're keeping it free for student groups until the end of the year because we realize that the market won't pay the $2/ticket fee. In fact Penn Student Agencies offered to do ticketing but it was going to cost too much, so the student groups said they didn't want it.
We hope to move into general calendaring by next year too, but we have a lot more features to add onto the site before that happens. We need to differentiate ourselves enough from other services, so that people will want to post on there either in addition to other services or instead of other services. There's a lot of advertising money to be made from that, but one step at a time. It's not about the money - it's about making a product that is substantially useful to people that they want to use it. How cool would it be to walk through the school library and see Locobuzz on the screen? They don't know who I am, and it wouldn't matter if they did. But there's an internal satisfaction that comes from that.
Anyway, we may have launched Locobuzz tonight, but that just means we went to talk to the Performing Arts Council about it. We still have a lot more to go in marketing and programming, and I'm probably going to ask for your help at some point. I'm ridiculously excited about it, and I can't wait to get moving on it more.
Tuesday, March 13, 2007
We took a taxi from the AIPAC hotel to Union Station in Washington DC today, and it cost $10, even. I have never been in a taxi ride where a bill came out to an even dollar amount, and I am sure that this cab ride was no exception. The thing about DC taxis is that they don’t have a visible meter; apparently they have “zones” that they take people to. I’m sure that’s great for the DC resident who knows just how much each trip is, but as a visitor, you just feel like you’re getting cheated. The taxi driver could have told me the trip was $15, and I could not have argued because I don’t know or understand the zone system.
Comparatively, I think the meter system is far easier to understand. Not that I necessarily can calculate on my own whether the meter’s accurately making me pay for a taxi. Hell, the machine could be charging me twice the amount I should be paying. But with a machine, there’s a sense that I am being accurately charged, regardless of whether I actually am. The machine doesn’t discriminate, so at least if I’m paying more, I know that it’s making everybody pay more. In addition, I can see myself how much the ride costs rather than relying on the individual who wants to take my money.
My point is not that machines are fairer than humans. My point is that people like to see for themselves, and by allowing people to see for themselves, you increase trust and a willingness to pay. When I ran my tutoring company, I always had my tutors send me a sheet with the date, time, and what they worked on for each session. And when I sent my bill, I sent it with all of that information, so that there was never a question or a dispute over billing. One woman I tutored for said she loved the system because she had tutors before that just charged the hours to her credit card and she had no idea what she’s paying for. Like I said, that didn’t mean that her tutors were lying about the time they spent, but it gave the woman a sense of distrust because she couldn’t see for herself. When you can build transparency into a business, it forces you to be more honest and it makes your customer trust you more.
Monday, March 12, 2007
The AIPAC conference has been pretty sweet. The amount of time and resources that must have gone into it has been amazing. Six thousand people showed up at the Washington Convention Center, and about 1,200 of that are college students. Iran is the big topic of discussion here. The President of Iran has been spouting off anti-Semitic remarks, calling for the destruction of Israel, and denying the Holocaust. Iran has been unabashedly pursuing a nuclear weapons program, and a nuclear Iran could have grave consequences for Israel.
When I was over in Israel, we had a security advisor talk to us. He said that what’s scary is not the President of Iran, who merely calls for the destruction of Israel; what’s scary are the people behind him who have done the math, and say, “There are six million Jews concentrated in a small area in the state of Israel, and there tens of millions of Arabs spread throughout the Middle East. If we drop but a few nukes on Israel, the state of Israel will cease to exist, and even if they strike back with ten times the force, Islam and Arabs will continue to prosper. We are willing to make that sacrifice.” Make no mistake about it: Israel would lose in a nuclear war of attrition.
Some of the Ayatollahs in Iran are willing to make Iran a martyr country because they see themselves as the government of more than Iran – they are the government of Islam. What are the chances that they’ll use their own people as martyrs? In the Iran-Iraq conflict, after Sadam had started his retreat into Iraq, he laid mines across the Iran-Iraq border. Iran, with little anti-mine technology, sent children, some as young as 12 years old, across the mine field to clear the way for Iranian tanks. If they are will to use children as instruments of war, it’s a pretty good indication that they’d sacrifice their people as well.
When I think about these sorts of current events, I often look at it from the perspective of people 100 years down the road. During World War II, the British public was thrilled about the idea of “appeasement” for Hitler’s lust for land. Chamberlain was keeping the nation out of war, which the British people feared after the carnage of World War I. Of course in hindsight, we realize how silly this idea of appeasement actually was. So what mistakes are we making today?
I fear that history will look on Iraq as the United States’ biggest blunder. We committed so many troops and so many resources to a war in Iraq with few real benefits, and I fear that we won’t have the money, the manpower, or the will to take on Iran as the real threat it is. Bush put all his political capital into the war with Iraq, and it has left him with astronomically low approval ratings. If Iran continues on its current path, will we be the Chamberlain’s who appease or the Churchill’s who step up?
Friday, March 9, 2007
I spent most of today writing cover letters and it's not an easy thing to do. Cover letters are like personal advertisements: "If you act now, you can get me, my friends, and my friends' friends for only $9,999.99 each!" Except you don't say that, you say: "My leadership and marketing experience would make a great addition to your company." Cover letters and resumes, almost by definition, need to be standardized so that your credentials can be easily compared with your peers. It's good for the company, but it makes cutting through the clutter nearly impossible. When they don't know you, they're looking at specific things in a specific order:
- Past Internships
- Business experience
And how do you communicate to someone that, because of these experiences, you learned the ins-and-outs of team work; that when you're a part of 10 different teams in one semester, you quickly learn how to deal with people and meetings effectively and efficiently; that you may not be intimately acquainted with the industry the company is in, but you're willing to spend hours reading about it if they spark a passion in you. You can't communicate it because it's what everyone else is saying: "I work well with others" and "I can do anything you give me." They are a cliche. They are things you won't really find out until you work with the person. So the companies go the safe route and ask for GPA and your school.
The ironic part about that is that GPA has little or no bearing on your future income after your first job. I forget which book I read it in this summer, but they found that the best predictor of future success is your verbal communication skills - not your GPA. And I believe it. In You Call the Shots, Cameron Johnson talked about how he could not have gotten in Wharton even if he tried because he had a 3.3 GPA. When he went to Virginia Tech, he took an intro to business class and earned a B in the class. This was the kid with over $1 million in the bank and 12+ successful businesses in the back pocket, and he got a B in his intro level course at Virginia Tech. There's a world of difference between business theory and execution. Student groups have prepared me in the long run to work in teams and execute, but it's not something I can really prove to employers in the short run. I'll just have to wait for an employer to get over my average Wharton GPA.
Above is one Yale kid's attempt to cut through the clutter on resumes. There were a whole bunch of articles on how outrageous this kid's video was and just how much he was stretching the truth. Come on now, he was just trying to market himself, right? Just kidding.
Thursday, March 8, 2007
Andrew and I were in North Face the other day, only to be astounded by their array of summer clothing. And I don't mean hiking and outdoor sports summer clothing - I'm talking about the short sleeve button down market. North Face has become stylish, and I'm guessing that's because of their high prices and chic winter wear. I just can't see them doing well in the short sleeve button down market. I'm still stuck in a time when they were about the outdoors. Weird.
Wednesday, March 7, 2007
So one of my good friends who's a brilliant quant guy (good with numbers, finance, accounting, etc.) emailed me challenging me on my title "The Un-Wharton: Business As a Passion -
I named this journal "The Un-Wharton," not as a cheap shot against finance guys (and it should be noted that I make no reference to finance in my title or my previous entries), but rather because I think Wharton can often squeeze the passion out of you if you’re not careful. Wharton has you looking at business through an objective, academic eye – that marketing can simply be a matter of entering the right numbers into a computer program like SABRE – rather than a dynamic, competitive challenge. I think that often Wharton forgets that business should be fun, and is about people interacting and exchanging ideas and services, rather than simply a case study and a cost-benefit analysis. This journal is about business as a passion because it’s about exploring business as I want to explore business and sharing my observations with the rest of you.
I see so many kids at Wharton going into i-banking for the wrong reasons: the money, the prestige, the approval from their parents. According to the 2006 Career Center Survey, 68 percent of Wharton grads went into the financial services industry, and you would be hard pressed to convince me that most of them are going into it because they’re passionate about it. I think a lot kids do it because it’s easiest, not because they’re interested. At the same time, people can go into entrepreneurship for the wrong reasons – for a quick buck, the publicity, etc – and many of them don’t go into it because it’s a passion. This journal is about keep business in perspective – as a passion rather than about money.
I also called it “The Un-Wharton” because management, marketing, and especially entrepreneurship are un-Wharton. With 68% of grads going into financial services, it’s obvious that Wharton specializes in finance. I have now attended the career center’s presentation on Penn Link for summer internships two years in a row now. Both times they said the same thing that stuck out in my head, “If you are into finance we got a lot for you, but if you’re into anything else, we have much less and you’re mostly going to be on your own.” Wharton just doesn’t have the same support for management, marketing, and entrepreneurship that finance has, which is part of the reason this journal is called “Un-Wharton.”
The state of affairs for entrepreneurship is especially bad at Wharton. The Wharton entrepreneurship program doesn’t even make Princeton Review’s and Entrepreneur Magazine’s top 25 entrepreneurial colleges for grad or undergrad. My friend Ravi had a fairly widely read article on his journal called “Where Entrepreneurship Comes to Die” which was also about the poor state of affairs on entrepreneurship at
Tuesday, March 6, 2007
He followed this company with a beanie baby business that he started by simply buying $100 worth of beanie babies from his little sister and selling them on eBay for $1000. Then, he filled out an application to a beanie baby manufacturer to buy 2,000 more beanie babies and sold them over the Internet. By the time he was finished with the beanie baby craze, he had risen to become the number two online retailer of beanie babies, netting $50,000 in the process.
You Call the Shots is the autobiography of Cameron Johnson, a 21-year-old from
His writing style was extremely straightforward, authentic, and easy to read. If you’re looking for a struggle-to-victory type book, You Call the Shots probably is not what you’re looking for. From this book, you get the feeling that the author can do no wrong in business, which was almost frustrating because I started to think that either you got it, or you don’t.
Regardless, the real value from the book was that you realized that starting a business is not as big a deal so everyone makes it out to be. All it takes is a little initiative and some common sense. I would put this book in the motivational category because as I read it, I wanted nothing more than to go out and start 12 of my own companies. If you’ve ever thought about starting a business but didn’t for whatever reason, read this book because it’ll make you realize that it’s not a big deal.
Concepts and Takeaways
Finally, I want to go over some of the concepts in the book that stood out to me – whether because it was a revolutionary idea to me or because it applied to my life in some way/shape/form. I’m only going to post one of those takeaways today and probably write more as the week goes on.
Money is the Yardstick, Not the Goal. My friend Ezra interviewed me a few days ago for a paper he was writing for one of his classes on how entrepreneurship is the new youth activism. One of the questions he asked was whether we just did entrepreneurship for the money. I answered the question just as Cameron Johnson did: Money is the primary way entrepreneurs measure the size of the impact they are having on society – it’s not the end goal. There are other measures, too, as Cameron points out, such as number of customers, satisfaction, etc, but money is one of the best indicator of how well your enterprise is doing. At one point, I thought money was the goal because I thought that all I wanted to do was lie on the beach and surf. But the question becomes in the case of a Cameron Johnson, “What would you do with your life if you had all the money you could ever need?” My answer is you do what you’re passionate about. I would be working on projects and starting businesses regardless of whether I was a poor college student or a millionaire. Perhaps I’m simply young and idealistic, but I figure life is about following your passions because it’s what makes you happy. Mine just so happens to be entrepreneurship.
Monday, March 5, 2007
Dear Friends and Family,
Before you publish a book, a publisher asks you what your "platform" is. The publishers wants to know how many people know you and care enough about you to buy your book. The more people you know, the more likely word of mouth is to catch on, and the more likely people will buy your book. Someone like Britney Spears would have a huge platform of thousands of fans to release her book "Why I Went Crazy," whereas a small town mayor might have a smaller platform of merely a few hundred people who would buy his or her book. In the same way, you are my platform.
You are the group of people who I think would be interested enough about what I think to tune into my writings every once in a while. Since you know me by now, you know that I have a real passion for business, and at some point, you probably have had to listen to me excitedly explain the newest and dorkiest business idea I learned about. I see this website as my way of sharing my passion for business with you, as well as anecdotes about my own life you might find interesting. I also see it as a way to keep in touch with you all, even when I don't see you every day. I know my friends Aman and Taylor started a website for their trip to China called Shanghai Summer, and I felt like I was in touch and involved with their trip even several thousand miles away.
So my promise to you is to try to keep this site as interesting and engaging as possible, if you'll check in every once in a while to check up on me. Sound good?