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Why Culture Is So Important For A Startup

1. The Definition


2. The current state of things

Now that basic Internet infrastructure is being provided and improved upon through intelligent engineering and machinery, it’s opening up new possibilities in the realm of entertainment, art, game and design (i.e. culture).

Instead of simply focusing on operational efficiency (a relic of the Industrial Age), we can start exploring the areas of human society which help reconnect us with our why, our purposes here in life.

I once met a great Frenchman by the name of Serg. He called himself a man of the emerging “Digital Renaissance.” I, too, believe that we are on the verge of another Renaissance.

Take a look at Magic Leap for example, an augmented reality company that raised $542m from Google in 2014. In conjunction with Weta Workshop, they’re looking to bring cinematic quality virtual experiences to the masses. Their slogan? It’s time to bring magic into the world.


3. An opportunity for creative entrepreneurs

“Businesses started by designers have created billions of dollars of value, are raising billions in capital, and VC firms increasingly see its importance.” #tech #culture #design http://buff.ly/1CKfK0j

Once upon a time, designers and artists (i.e. creatives) used to think the only way they could make money is by not being an artist.


However, when Steve Jobs stepped onto the scene, especially with his iconic quote, “Real artists ship,” he helped lay the foundations for a slew of creatives to start applying their creative juices to the entrepreneurial landscape.

In fact, if you look back in time, creatives were once called “artisans”, and contributed greatly to local markets and intersecting trade routes.

Some of their outputs including poetry, jewellery, pottery, etc. left great clues for current historians on how the people of the time felt outside of basic economic and wartime records.

And now that technology is enabling more and more people to get things done painlessly and simply, sites like Etsy, Youtube, Kickstarter and Patreon are helping to bring creatives out of the shadows (and make money too).

4. Great looks, intuitive mind

This artisan-like surge is also allowing professional designers (those who perhaps studied or climbed up the corporate ladder within larger organisations), to team up with tech-based engineers and entrepreneurs to create truly remarkable online experiences for users.

Think Apple, Airbnb and Uber.

These companies not only provide well-designed apps, hardware and user experiences, their functionality go above and beyond our expectations!

And as our expectations in the West increase, knowing that we can get things that look good and work well, we expect more of it.

Today’s users are smart, informed and design-critical. A far cry from the past when information was scarce or not easily accessible.

It’s now easier than ever for a customer to do their research, and see what their closest friends have to say about you, all within minutes from their smartphones.

Consumers are increasingly wanting to feel, not just know.

This increased need for connection is an effect technology has had on us in attempting to connect us virtually. But, in doing so, it has also disconnected us from each other physically.


4. Bridging The Gap & The Experience Economy

In order to bridge this gap, I believe increased investments into things like arts, entertainment, games, and design will have a huge impact on technology application to improving the human experience.

If we are to prevent the machines from “taking over,” which many Hollywood films seem to love to portray, let’s look at solutions where technology can harmonise with us and our planet.

According to Jeremy Rifkin, author of the Zero Marginal Cost Society, humans will reach a point where they increasingly start to question their existence (if they haven’t started doing so already), once technology has taken full care of all their basic needs and labor.

At the rate we’re going, Artificial Intelligence is surely set do this for us sooner rather than later.

But just like how “big data” became one of the most valuable assets to invest in for the 21st century, I believe that how people think and feel will be the next most investable asset.

In the past, this was acquired via art, theatres, books or music. It will soon be the most phenomenal experiences that technology can create for human beings (e.g. augmented reality).

Don’t take my word for it? Have a look at what Eventbrite has to say about this, and why they’re calling it the “experience economy”.

And when companies like Microsoft, Samsung and Google all battle each other to invest in the next best augmented-reality startup, which essentially aims to connect the virtual and digital worlds, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t be excited!


5. Cultural Experiences For Your Own Startup

Team productivity is influenced by more than just what happens “on the field.” It’s also about the bonds created off the field.

This is why micro management around time management and efficiencies during work hours are missing fundamental elements that can make or break culture.

We are human beings. We want to feel and connect.

Simple things like team drinks after hours, or watching movies together, can encourage a sense of stickiness and loyalty. Although not always measurable, it’s something intuitively known by some of the best team leaders and managers around the world.

Having fun can lead to happiness, and happiness leads to a more productive workforce.

Therefore, when growing your startup, it’s important to look at the team you wish to attract (or already have), and identify what it is you collectively consider to be “fun”. This can help unlock dormant creativity within the group, increase the team’s “stickiness”, and get everyone in sync to be able to achieve goals faster.

And if you’re wanting to see just how important culture is in growing your startup, have a read of these articles:

Don’t Fuck Up The Culture – a note from Airbnb
Company Culture, Design or Default? – Firespring
Culture Isn’t Kumbaya Stuff – First Round Review

Look at ways to create more experiences within your startup that are reflective of the culture you wish to build. Value fun? Do the Zappos thing and have crazy dress up days. Value problem solving? Put on Hackathons just like Facebook. Value family? Setup frequent barbecues for employees and their families.
So you can leave this article with something actionable, click here to download the widely popular “culture deck” that was created by Non-Profit Organisation Possible. Once you’ve reviewed it, try creating a Culture Deck of your own. It is similar to a Pitch Deck.

Also published on Medium.

How To Manage Your Growing Network Database of Contacts

As a creative entrepreneur, it can be tough trying to rummage through your memory bank when it comes to remembering names.

Once you move past 150 people, which is supposedly the maximum number of close relationships you can keep before seeing diminishing returns (also known as Dunbar’s Number), you’ll want to start keeping track of all your contacts outside of your brain.

This is especially true if you’re an avid networker, or need to keep track of prospects/leads for closing deals and making sales.

However, before you sink your teeth into the tools (i.e. network database/online contact/relationship management), it’s important to look at the basics.


[Q2 2015 Review] What I Learned About My “Fans” From Facebook Insights

I was recently looking through my Facebook analytics.

Although I like documenting things and then sharing my learnings, I wouldn’t say I’m much of a data nut. I have it there and ready – but I rarely review enough to be able to do anything worthwhile with it.

Today we’re changing that.

After perusing my Facebook data, here’s what I learned (maybe you can help me decipher what this means about my audiences too).

Let’s start with Facebook.


Why Engagement Metrics Matter In Community Building

Entertainment has been the number one way to keep human beings “engaged” for centuries. From throwing rocks in sand for games, to jesters performing jovially in royal courts, all these different forms of entertainment have contributed to an enrichment of the human experience.

However, until now, engagement has been more art than science. Thankfully, to the wonders of data analytics, we can now measure what used to be considered immeasurable. As a result, engagement metrics have become an important part of measuring the health of communities, whether they be online or offline.

In this article, we explore my journey with engagement metrics from explainer videos to live communities within coworking spaces.


How To Retreat Like A Pro

In this article, you will learn how to retreat like a pro when the going gets tough (especially when you feel like you got no time).

In some cultures, to back down or retreat is considered dishonorable or cowardly. In other cultures, it’s a valuable skill to have. What purpose does a retreat really serve, and how do you “retreat” effectively?

During the time of Genghis Khan, the Mongol Hordes quickly became masters of the retreat (often referred to as the “feigned retreat” in today’s military terminology). This worked well for them because there was no shame associated with it.

In nature, wolves never continue pursuing prey if they know it will cost the life of a pack member. They know exactly when to stop, retreat, recollect, learn from their mistakes, and then prepare for the next round.


What Mr. Miyagi Taught Me About Teaching

There are many wise mentors in films from Yoda of Star Wars to Mr.Miyagi of The Karate Kid. Throughout the ages, mentors have provided guidance to those who often lose their way. This article is an attempt to outline what I’ve come to call the “Mr. Miyagi Method.”

Mr. Miyagi is a wise old Japanese character from the 90’s hit film The Karate Kid.

He was the type of teacher that everyone wish they had – with a style of teaching that is based on doing, not just reading textbooks all day.

There may be many different approaches to teaching, but this style is the type best suited to experiential learners.

So how does it work?

  1. Make student promise not to ask questions
  2. Teacher gives student a seemingly mundane task to perform for a significant period of time
  3. Student gets increasingly frustrated
  4. Teacher resists informing the student of the task’s importance prematurely
  5. Teacher taunts (indirectly) student during tasks
  6. Student hits breaking point and decides to quit
  7. When the student quits, the teacher interrupts and gets the student to perform the task in a different way
  8. Student amazes him or herself
Karate Kid. Moment of realization.

A scene from The Karate Kid. Picture from My Rule of Thirds.

Why does this work so well? Let’s break it down step-by-step:

  1. If a student really wants something from a teacher, they must learn to respect the teacher (no questions asked)
  2. The teacher does not give a reason to the student, they must understand the lesson and have full conviction in its outcome. Teacher does not reveal real reasons for the task for risk of breaking the lesson.
  3. Young students (usually rebellious or misunderstood) will get frustrated because they are used to getting what they want
  4. The teacher must remain focused and have conviction (energetically) so the student does not detect weakness or see means to manipulate (you may think this is harsh, but everybody detects each other’s energies on a subtle level)
  5. The teacher will pass the student every now and then to see just how focused he or she is on the task at hand (this develops an ability for the student to stay focused no matter the distractions – the true lesson)
  6. If the teacher persists enough, the student will eventually get tired and throw in the towel (if they have not yet seen the reason why they’re doing what they’re doing)
  7. When the student quits, it is the role of the teacher to intervene right then and there and get the student to relay what they’ve learned to the teacher. The student will get frustrated again, but the teacher must persist. The teacher must then provide something that allows the student to apply what they’ve learned to a different task or challenge. This shows that the student has truly learned something, and not just memorized for the sake of.
  8. The student amazes themselves but, in your heart, you knew they had it in them all along. This is the true power of education.

***Note: some students will not trust a teacher upfront, so sometimes “tough love” becomes a necessary part of the lessons. Many students, even adults, are reluctant to taking direction from somebody else out of fear of being told “what to do.”  A Master Teacher will typically know how to deal with this by being calm and assertive.***

I have used this approach most successfully with visual or haptic-oriented students. It’s very improvisational but, for the teacher, you know exactly what’s happening.

There’s a bit of risk involved as well (as there’s always going to be a few students who won’t appreciate the lack of structure or order), but remember that you are trying to embed lessons, not just regurgitate it in fancy frameworks.

In the words of Mr. Miyagi, “No such thing as bad student, only bad teacher. Teacher say, student do.” The Millennial generation must heal its resistance towards being told “what to do”, but the teachers of today must also make sure they are coming from a solid foundation themselves.

May you find your inner teacher and share your wisdom with the world!

Image courtesy of Goinswriter


What Two Bogans On A Train Taught Me About Hustle

I was coming home on the train one evening when, out of nowhere, a girl appears and starts asking everyone on the carriage for any change they could spare.

Here were her exact words:

“Excuse me sir/ma’am. Sorry to disturb you, but would you happen to have any spare change? Just looking for a place to stay and need some money to save up. If you don’t, that’s okay!”

<person gives loose change>

“Thank you sir/ma’am. Really appreciate it. I feel bad doing this.”

At this point, I’m thinking to myself, “No you don’t! You know exactly what you’re doing!”

Don’t Be Afraid To Ask

She then proceeded to ask every single other person for loose change. Not worried at all that others are starting to catch on to the fact she may just be looking to see how much many she can get from as many people as possible.

Now, while she was going up and down the carriage, her partner in crime (some other dude who was right across from me), was counting loose change for what seemed like a good 10 minutes. (It sounded like $100 worth of coins to me.)

I suspected these guys had been doing the same thing for each carriage on the entire train line.

What amazed me was how deadly of a combo they were.

Have A “Partner In Crime”

The girl was the one out asking for the money (the salesperson), while the guy was counting the change (the manager).

This guy didn’t speak a word to anyone on the carriage.

(If you’re thinking this is like something from the movies – like with a pimp and his hoe – I wouldn’t have blamed you.)

I don’t know what the exact arrangement was, all I know was that these guys were resourceful. There was clearly no shame or embarrassment in the ask (even though the girl said she was “sorry for asking”), which meant she was able to do what most people wouldn’t dare to do out of social “etiquette”.

This is similar to how salespeople have to learn how to push through potentially awkward situations and “ask for the sale” (although in this case, it might seem a bit more extreme). But it’s easier to do when you know you got someone to back you up.

Ask for The Sale, Respectfully

Believe it or not – I’ve seen this occur many times on Melbourne train lines. In fact, I’ve noticed an “evolution” in these guys’ approach to getting money from people.

In the past, they would be rude and blunt. Forceful and agressive. Now, they’ve learned how to be “nice” and elicit empathetic emotions from regular train-goers (even if it’s not all that convincing). The fact that you’re put on the spot in front of others, and have a small amount of time to make a decision, means that these guys are very socially savvy. They know what works.

It’s quite fascinating!

The one final bit was that, since I knew what these guys were doing, I actually pretended to sleep to see if the girl would actually go as far as wake me up to get what she wanted.

Guess what? She did.

Nevertheless, these guys taught (reminded) me that if you really want something – you will most often do whatever it takes to get it (the art of the hustle). Excuses become non-existent (right or wrong – I have no idea what those bogans were really collecting money for), and all that matters is that you know what you want.

Have you ever pushed through potentially awkward situations to get what you want? Comment below!

Also published on Medium.

How I Made $325 From A Crazy Idea In 2 Hours On Facebook

On August 16, 2013, I hopped onto my usual train back home. As I was listening to an audio-book, out of nowhere, an idea popped into my head to create animated visualizations based on people’s goals. So I put the idea up on Facebook straight away to see if it would stick.

What happened next amazed me.

In just 2 hours (the length it takes for me to train back home), here’s what entered my Paypal account by the end of it:

This was just from a single idea in my head. Didn’t show anything at all. No work, no site, no portfolio. Just a little bit of copywriting knowledge (thanks to folks like AppSumo’s Noah Kagan) and conquering my fear of having to have everything “perfect.”

When validating an idea (like the one above), it’s important to just get stuff out, then refine over time.

“Animation can achieve whatever the mind of man can conceive.” ~Walt Disney

I think what was most special about this little experiment was the generosity.

I didn’t put a price tag on the idea or service, so the onus was on the customer to contribute what they thought the service was worth to them. Having a bit of rapport with the network I shared the idea with, certainly helped.

As part of my job as Community Manager while I was at Hub Melbourne, I listened to the struggles of aspiring entrepreneurs day in and day out. It amazes me when I hear people who have spent thousands of dollars without validating their ideas, or even getting a single dollar in their hands for it.

The ability to sell an idea, and get paid for it before it’s created, is a valuable skillset. If you can learn to do this, you can save yourself lots of wasted time and effort!

So don’t worry about fancy tools, having a website, or even being first on Google. When starting out, just get stuff out and learn to fail fast.

The sharing economy of today means that it’s not those with the best ideas, but those who can execute on them the quickest that will succeed.

Now go out and apply this for an idea of your own – if I can do it, so can you!

And if you want a copy of the featured template in the video, just click the button below: