The Art of the Start by Guy Kawasaki

February 2, 2007

The Art of the Start is a book released by Guy Kawasaki in 2006. Guy also has an excellent blog focussing on issues faced by start-ups. A recent post is particularly interesting:The Top Ten Stupid Ways to Hinder Market Adoption which contains 14 points to avoid if you want to make your web site or service user friendly. There are a couple of things I’m definitely going to have to look at!

I bought his book last year and, taking my copy off the bookshelf, I found it to be stuffed full of pink post-it notes. Here are some of the things that grabbed my attention along the way:

POLARIZE PEOPLE: When you create a product or service that some people love, don’t be surprised when others hate you. Your goal is to catalyze passion – pro or anti. Don’t be offended if people take issue with what you’ve done; the only result that should offend (and scare) you is lack of interest.

I have to say that is a sentiment I whole heartedly go along with and found this with trymehere when I have shown it to some people. One well known analyst said “I wouldn’t be seen dead using it”, while another said that it “solved one of his daily problems”!

[When asking colleagues about what they think of your service] My final tip is that you ask Women. My theory is that deep in the DNA of men is a ‘killer’ gene. This gene expresses itself by making men want to kill people, animals, and plants. To a large degree, society has repressed this gene… Hence, asking a man about a business model is useless because every business model looks good to someone with the Y chromosome… Women by contrast do not have this killer gene. Thus, they are much better judges of the viability of a business model than men are.

Well, I started doing this a little bit last year but the jury is still out for me. However, it feels right!

PICK A NAME WITH “VERB POTENTIAL.” In a perfect world, your name enters the mainstream vernbacular and becomes a verb. For example people “xerox” documents – as opposed to photocopy. Names that work are short and not tongue twisters.

I particularly like this thought because it lets you use the company name in interesting ways in text describing your service. Although I wouldn’t propose this as an ideal example, a web service called ConnectMeAnywhere is quite an appealing name. Another is GoToMyPC .

These requirements [talking about bootstrapping a business] point to products, services and target markets with the following characteristics:

  • People already know, or it becomes immediately obvious, that they need your product or service. You don’t have to educate your potential customers about their pain.
  • Your product or service is “auto-persuasive.” That is, once people recognize their pain an how your solve i, they can persuade themselves to take the next step and buy what you’re offering.

This is a good aim but very challenging to realise, but it does show that articulating the industry pain you are solving is very important not only to potential investors in your business , but also transparently to potential customers.

Well, that’s just a few of my pink post-it notes and all the others indicate points that are just as stimulating. If you are open to new ideas then reading this book will enevitably trigger some new activities! Go to it!

That Book! Mobile Web 2.0!

January 15, 2007

I’m an avid reader of books and feel completely lost if I’m not reading one (sad, but I’m Radio 4 listener as well!). I’ve just started The Long March, by Sun Shuyen which talks about the fledgling Chinese Communist Party’s 10,000 mile march around China fleeing Chaing Kaishek’s army.

The myths arising from that march formed the basis of Mao Tse Tung’s barbaric domination of China for so many years. However, this is supposed to be a technology blog…

I also read many technical books – not deeply technical ones I might say, but certainly ones that make me think about what’s happening in the market and could potentially change the way I think about things. I suppose I have to say that I more than more often than not just skim them, highlighting and /or scribbling in the margin at those points that seem significant or more often those I disagree with. I’m sure all this knowledge will prove to be useful one day :>).However, I did actually read one book from cover to cover.

A book I recently bought from Amazon was Mobile Web 2.0 by Ajit Jaoker and Tony Fish. Both of these guys are well known on the conference circuit and Ajit runs a well known blog called OpenGardens, a term that derives from a juxtaposition of the term walled garden services that block access to the open Internet . Walled garden serives allow their customers to access the content and services they choose to provide. This used to be the case in the early days of the Internet world with companies such as Compuserve and AOL, but this is all long in the past – or is it?

Well actually, no it isn’t in the world of mobile phone service providers, however, I digress.

The book’s strap-line is “The innovator’s guide to developing and marketing next generation wireless/mobile applications” and it certainly represents a tour de force at 324 pages in thickness.

The authors state in the introduction that:“this book looks at mobile applications in an unconventional manner” and it certainly succeed. To quote:

“If you see mobile applications as purely as an extension of the web, you are going to struggle with this book” and…

“If you see mobile applications as merely an access technology within a standalone industry… Put the book back on the shelf and move on”. (This is more difficult when the book’s been bought from Amazon!) and…

“If you see that mobile applications and the web are symbiotic with distinct and unique values that need to learn and grow together; you are not going to put this down”.

I guiltily have to admit that after participating as a marketeer for many years in the growth of the PC and Internet markets, the first two statements sum up my views perfectly! I guess that makes me a 100% Luddite that should be relegated to Web 1.0 history. Oh well.

In spite of this, I do have to recommend the reading of this book as it does contain some real nuggets. for those trying to get to grips with mobile content services. A one sentence review, would say that the book takes all the definitions and jargon that provide the essence of Web 2.0 philosophy and extends (stretches?) them to encompass data and content services as accessed (whoops sorry!) via a mobile phone.

This post is not meant to be a proper review of the book , so I’ll just point to one or two of the point I highlighted while reading.

Early on there is a one-page section called A word of caution:

“The Telecoms environment and its slow moving, complex decision-making processes perplex most developers. Hence, a word of caution is needed. When we first discussed the idea of OpenGardens with a well-known Telecoms industry veteran, he said that the book should come with a ‘Health warning’. Keep away! Too many have gone down this path with visions of gold rush ‘Ia Klondike’ but have died a snowy death. Here is a brutally frank paraphrased view point, coming from a Telecoms industry insider:”

I won’t go through the advice listed here as you should really buy the book, but I most certainly agree with the sentiments. I give this sort of advice to so many start-ups who believe they can use either a fixed or a mobile operator as a channel or they will become a key prospect. Not a good in general. I will post more on this subject at some time.

On page 75 there is an interesting section entitled Significance of the mobile device – Maslow revisited that includes the sentence :

“This relationship is unique [between people and their mobile phones] i.e. one does not feel the same emotional empathy with their PC as they do with their mobile device”.

This is a key thread that permeates much of thebook. Wow, I have to say I wish I felt that way (a luddite again). I have MUCH more empathy with my PC than my phone. I guess that is because I’m not 16 and am one of the Web 1.0 folks who will not be able to adapt to this new world.! Mind you I swear just as much at Windows crashing as I do at my total inability to find my around the arcane menu structure on my mobile phone!

Do other people who have always worked in the mobile world share this view I wonder?

In a later section it says The mobile phone network is the computer:

“Back in the 1970s, Bill Gates articulated his vision of ‘a computer on every desk, and every one running Microsoft software’. By the late 90s, that vision was largely complete. Another profound vision was articulated by Sun Microsystems58 co-founder John Gage in 1984. It concerned a different model called ‘distributed computing’ and it said: ‘The network is the computer’. By the late 1990s, that vision was also almost realised, especially with the rise of the Internet….” Sun still use this strap line as I saw it at an exhibition before Christmas).

“What if we could extrapolate the ideas of a ‘computer’ and a ‘network’ to a higher level in the stack and especially to a ‘Network of mobile phones’?

Finishing with:

“Thus, in a mobile 2.0 context, we could say ‘The mobile phone network is is the computer. Of course, when we say ‘phone network’ we do not mean the ‘Mobile [capitalisation again?] operator network. Rather we mean an open, Web driven application…”

These comments raised all sorts of interesting emotions and reactions when I read them, which I guess, is what the authors intended. But the thought that a mobile phone could be on a higher level does make me blink somewhat !

As this is only meant to be a short post, I will stop here. The book is a highly entertaining and thought provoking book and I commend Ajit and Tony on their efforts, even though I found parts hard to swallow without shouting out aloud!

Go buy it and I look forward to their next one.