My Way

Everyone needs a “thing”. Something they can rely on to get them going when they need pysching up; something that gives them pins and needles and makes them ready to take on the world.

As a startup founder constantly pitching, hustling and often punching above my weight I have found that I’ve been turning to mine quite a bit recently. It is a powerful song: Frank Sinatra and Pavarotti duetting on My Way.

Listen: here

  
Strong words and belted out. Best listened to loud.

The lyrics:

And now, the end is near

And so I face the final curtain

My friend, I’ll say it clear

I’ll state my case, of which I’m certain

I’ve lived a life that’s full

I traveled each and every highway

And more, much more than this, I did it my way
Regrets, I’ve had a few

But then again, too few to mention

I did what I had to do and saw it through without exemption

I planned each charted course, each careful step along the byway

And more, much more than this, I did it my way
Yes, there were times, I’m sure you knew

When I bit off more than I could chew

But through it all, when there was doubt

I ate it up and spit it out

I faced it all and I stood tall and did it my way
I’ve loved, I’ve laughed and cried

I’ve had my fill, my share of losing

And now, as tears subside, I find it all so amusing

To think I did all that

And may I say, not in a shy way

Oh, no, oh, no, not me, I did it my way
For what is a man, what has he got?

If not himself, then he has naught

To say the things he truly feels and not the words of one who kneels

The record shows I took the blows and did it my way

Yes, it was my way

AI and 3D printing in the future

Image Bertha – the original 3D printer

I haven’t written a post in a while as I got caught in limbo between both focussing hard on my work and 2 blog posts that got a bit epic: one on how platforms like Quora will form the basis of AI, and the other about the kind of 3D digital sculpting environment necessary for 3D printing. Both turned into essays and needed more research to cover the holes in my arguments.

Think of this though:

Leap Motion type sculpting in 3D where someone can just reach in manipulate an object, like you would on CAD but in real-time with your hands. Various tools would be available for it. You could change the materials being used, to say: graphene, plastic, different metals or woods or whatever. You could change the surfaces of the objects to be rough, or smooth aerodynamic, or flexible or soft. You could change the internal weight ratios. You could change the atmosphere that it is in, to say: turn on wind, up the pressure like your underwater, go into space or on to Mars. And then – ok this is the hardest bit – you could print it out. That must be where we are heading.

As for the AI thing, well, people are asking so many questions on Yahoo Answers and Quora type platforms, that it just makes me think that we might be looking at AI the wrong way. Why not have a crowd-sourced, up-voted human answer coming out of a machine, than a synthesised artificial answer? 

Hopefully one day I will get around to publishing expanded versions of these ideas.

 

Increase Sales On-line

People say don’t sell by price; sell by perceived value. How much does this product/ service improve the current situation? How much is that worth?

If you can get that right, you will have the basics of a sales pitch. What else is there? This is my non-exhaustive list based on my experience of being a non-salesperson trying to sell my products:

– Knowing your competition and your unique selling proposition compared to them;
– “…..” (Insert name there) is using the product eg. Add credibility;
– ‘pre-selling’, which is to make people like you or your company, or that you talking in the same tone, with same viewpoint as them. That you understand them. Put pictures up oc yourself and a non-selling About Us page;
– removing friction from a sale- eg. Spelling errors, bad use of language or anything that puts a doubt in peoples mind about the quality of the product. Another point here is one that works for us, but not sure how many others- we took down our free trial – of which we had a 1/20 conversion rate, and experimented with static pages, text and images. This not only increased revenue (curiosity? Less distraction from the selling process?) over time, but it also meant I had more time to get on with my other jobs. It is likely we will put a trial back up when we have more resources to properly follow up the leads;
– awareness of what stage your product is at in terms of its life cycle, eg. Beta, early stage, full product- this will help you speak the right language to the type of customer you are dealing with (innovator, early adopter, mass etc), who all have different requirements from the product.

Hopefully I will add more here as I learn them.

Please give me some more tips!

A template for customer pain

Crossing the Chasm, by Geoffrey Moore, is a must read book for any tech start up. And as I have said before, maybe any product maker who intends to scale at all.  Maybe even all business owners full stop. The book is full of common sense/ business theory tactics on launching products. It is designed for high tech products but I think it lays out a general prescription for products of all kinds. This is just one example (taken straight from there), about your customers. Anyone who has or is going to start a business should know the results of this at the front of their working memory:

A day in the life of your customer (before sale)

Scene of Situation – Focus on the moment of frustration. What is going on? What is the user about to attempt?

Desired Outcome – What is the user trying to accomplish? Why is this important?

Attempted approach – Without the new product, how does the user go about the task?

Interfering factors – What goes wrong? How and why does it go wrong?

Economic Consequences – So what? What is the impact of the user failing to accomplish the task productively?

— I swap some of the words around to make it suitable to my industry eg. I turn “economic consequences” into “pedagogical consequences” as I work in edtech.–

 

A day in the life (after sale)

New approach – with the new product how does the end user go about the task?

Enabling factors – What is it about the new approach that allows the user to get unstuck and be productive?

Economic Rewards – What are the costs avoided or benefits gained?

 

This is the basics of business. What problem does your product solve? Know the answer to this scenario and  the empathy you are able to offer turns you into an instant sales person. Of course, it is hard to get accurate answers for, but we live in a world of social media so now anyone can use their brain and start asking clever questions.  

The book has so much more than this pithy blog. Read it.

 

How to build up a local sports club

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I continued to have a great weekend today. Not only did my company website makes its tv debut but I attended my home town judo clubs first competition.

This time last year only a few kids were turning up to attend the classes after a crisis struck the club resulting in the head coach being landed in jail. We were downbeat and the club was loosing lots of money.

But we made solid decisions and today was an experience that proved that we have not just brought the club back from the brink, but moved it on to the next level.

How did we do it?

First of all, peace of mind. We always ensured training was on, that it was going to be a good session in a safe environment. Some of the members were heroic in their dedication to this.

To support this, we took the senior members through their coaching qualifications, child safety and first aid courses- and placed the certificates where everyone could see them, right by the entry door. We gave our members the peace of mind, that is essential for any lasting agreement.

Then we got creative. We got a huge print out of “Bearpark Judo Club” and placed it over the windows of the hall we use. This attracted the attention of passers by which certainly led to interest. It took our product from the back shelves of a store on to the front shelf.

We set up a website that was properly thought out to appear for any local searches for judo. We made a facebook group and ensured that it was filled with all the information people need before they came, and put up some videos and photos of us in action. Although I was wearing gi that was too big for me.

Once membership had started to climb, we began to take our members to local competitions to ensure they get good fighting experience which raises the standards of the training. Other clubs now know of us and come along to train with us, and we take our members to their clubs.

We now have 30 -40 weekly members (which fills the hall), a range of seniors and juniors, some excellent players who have great potential and are going out and winning trophies, a great family feel to the club (it is a no -profit, community club) and a healthy bank balance.

I am so proud of what we have achieved and excited about what the future holds. For both TimeMaps and Bearpark Judo Club.