Category: Biz Development (page 1 of 2)

Rejection Proof: The Founders Mission

A few years ago I was responsible for pitching for capital in front of 50 sophisticated Investors. Although I was well prepared with the perfect pitch deck and script my body shook with anxiety and fear that almost cut off circulation to my extremities, I almost passed out. Combine this pressure with a team who depended on me to raise enough capital to keep us afloat for another 2 years and now I was feeling pressure from both ends.

I must say that I had second thoughts if I was the right person for the job despite all my experience with a successful exit a few years earlier. Thoughts like “What If they don’t like me or our solution?”, “What if I fail to convert any investor and my co-founders lose respect for me?” and  “Do I still have what it takes to be CEO of this startup?”

Not all rejections are created equal, it would seem that the higher the stakes the bigger the pain that rejection delivers. Thoughts and fears like these have never supported me in performing at my best so how the hell did I end up in this state and how do I shift it to a more effective state?

As the reader you are probably feeling anxious right now and thats exactly why I doubled down on becoming Rejection Proof. The key negative effects of fear of rejection include:

  • Self defeat leading to abandoning your dreams and inspirations
  • Doubt and anxiety leading to taking less risks even as a contributor in a group
  • Overly defensive and triggered leading to closing you down
    Depression from believing you are not good enough

Founders experience more rejection than most, maybe thats why 92% of them fail. In the pursuit of proving a hypothesis, solving problems for customers and pitching to investors they must constantly face criticism, persecution and even embarrassment before they can win. I have seen founders break down and cry, have panic attacks and storm off with profanities in their wake. But this never ends well for anyone and investors view this type of reaction badly, perceiving founders as un-coachable, without the necessary grit and resilience they will be perceived as never having what it takes to sprint the marathon that is startup.

On the other side of rejection though is opportunity, opportunity to learn, iterate and grow. Overcoming rejection is every founders mandate if they are to be a leader worth following, I mean what message are you sending to your team if you fear rejection. If startup requires a lot of experimentation before you get everything right, you must invest in being equipped for lots of failure and rejection. Think about it, every situation where rejection is a possibility provides immense benefit on the other side, every one, weather for internal or external gain. So developing the capacity to bounce back from rejection has to be a priority for any founder wanting more from both themselves and their startup.

In fact the fastest path to success is not to avoid rejection but to seek it out, if you are not being rejected then you are not disrupting enough and/or not getting outside of the four walls of your business and risking rejection.

So with a week to go before the big pitch day I invested just as much time in Rejection Proofing myself as I did in my pitch practice with the following steps:

  • Take responsibility for your feelings - If criticism hurts then you are deriving self worth from performance versus your innate qualities. Time to reconnect with your inner self and appreciate yourself beyond your performance.
  • Investigate and question false beliefs - Your sense of self worth is inherited but rarely questioned. Ask yourself “Can I be absolutely certain that I am not good enough?” “Who could I be without that thought?”
  • Accept that you will be rejected - This is out of your control so set yourself up for it and imagine the worst case scenario to realise how “we suffer more in imagination than in reality”. Seneca
  • Shift your perspective from losing to learning - With the right frame you can experience rejection as being done FOR you, not TO you. So when you get rejected ask questions like “What would you like to see in our offer before taking us seriously?” and “How would you solve this?”
  • Use the pain to mobilise resources - Just enough pain will enable you to try harder, dig deeper and never give up with the right support.
  • Turn Rejection into Opportunity - A No from a customer or investor is one step closer to a Yes that can be negotiated through more understanding and iteration. Note most founders give up after 2-3 attempts, in my experience if you aim to get rejected 8 time from the same person before you give up you will win 80% of the time.
  • Overcome Rejection with Inspiration - Research how others have overcome countless rejections – like J.K Rowling and AirBnB’s founders.
  • Practice Rejection Therapy - to overcome the sting of rejection practice getting rejected in a safe space with friends and family and progressively take bigger risks like Jia Jiang.

In time you will feel impenetrable, like you are wearing a bullet proof vest, you can still take the shots and they will hurt but it wont be the end of you or your startup. Over time I built more and more self confidence and so did the team, overcoming fear of rejection meant I was more creative, took more risks and in the end nailed the pitch enough to be oversubscribed. Every Investor loves a founder that has the conviction that they are going to build their startup with or without them no matter what. Overcoming fear of rejection is the fastest way to build this conviction that investors and customers love supporting.

Life will teach us many lessons but the lessons we learn from our biggest Rejections are the most valuable.

How are you letting Rejection get in the way of your possibility?

To learn more we recommend Jai Jian book Rejection Proof: How I Beat Fear and Became Invincible through 100 days of Rejection  or attend our next Bootcamp to become Rejection Proof.

Stoicism For Startups

I pulled the chute and went all in on my first Startup in 2008, walking away from the safety and familiarity of a corporate job was not all that hard but it wasn’t long before the underlying anxiety I grew up with possessed every waking minute of my life. I clearly remember waking up every morning to debilitating anxiety that meant my morning routine would include the mandatory dry reaching as the thought ‘What the hell have you gotten yourself into’ settled into my consciousness.

If you are a Startup founder you know exactly what I am talking about. That feeling of dread, insecurity and confusion at the insurmountable obstacles to building your dream Startup. Obstacles like running out of money before you break even, rejection from customers and investors and issues with your co-founders are all seemingly inevitable.

When you also consider that 92% of Startups fail within the first two years and that 3 new startups will be launched by the time you finish this sentence it would seem that the odds are drastically stacked against you.

Failure as a founder is a constant threat. So it’s no surprise that 49% of founders suffer from mental health issues such as anxiety and depression. Something needs to give or something needs to shift. In most cases something gives before it shifts unfortunately.

Given all of the above there must be a better way in handling obstacles otherwise those statistics and the founder suicides we occasionally hear of will only get worse.

After a panic attack I noticed that I was not functioning at my best so I sought to solve this problem and discovered what legends who faced much larger obstacles in life used to overcome these debilitating situations. I then discovered Stoicism, considered by many as the ultimate operating system for high stress environments. Legends like Marcus Aurelius, Thomas Edison and even Steve Jobs were all reported to embody Stoicism.

Unlike other philosophies, Stoic tenets are pragmatic and based on applying reason to the information provided by your senses in order to develop a true understanding of reality. As it is a broad philosophy with many fathers I will only focus on the parts of Stoicism that relate to this specific challenge here.

Seneca quoted “We suffer more often in imagination than in reality” hence we possess the power to see obstacles differently. Marcus Aurelius famously journaled “The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.”

The truth is we’re not driven by reality, we’re driven by our perception of reality. So how do we turn our perceptions around?

The Stoic’s believed that overcoming obstacles requires three critical steps.

  • how we look at our specific problems – Judgements
  • the energy and creativity with which we actively break them down and turn them into opportunities – Actions
  • the cultivation and maintenance of an inner will that allows us to handle defeat and difficulty – Disciplines

So once I understood these principles I would apply critical self-inquiry onto the obstacles I believed I had in order to get the facts and become aware of how my bias’s and beliefs were getting in the way of solving the biggest problems. I then applied focus on only the things that I had total control over- my actions. By taking a rational approach this enabled me to be more effective without the usual anxiety in tackling a large obstacle.

For example, understanding why and how startups fail from the outset means that you can prepare and mitigate against those failures. A modern Stoic, Tim Ferris’s talk on Fear Setting is a great resource. We adapted his checklist to what you need to do to overcome obstacles and rationally assess the fear of doing something or nothing. By logically setting out the big obstacles that your business needs to overcome and applying Fear Setting to get underneath what might get in the way you will be less afraid of taking action.

At The Founder Lab we believe this practice falls into the realm of capacity building. Specifically, in building your capacity to be adaptable which is critical in early stage startups who are experimenting until they find product market fit. In fact, we believe founders need to build capacity first as this has a multiplier effect to the effectiveness of your startup.

However, as Mike Tyson famously said “Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the face.” Even the best tool kit will fail without daily rigor and practice. World class founders get punched in the face more often than most, their daily disciplines are what keeps them in the game and keeps them from causing more harm. We have found that daily practices in handling adversity and failure is critical to building your capacity to bounce back quickly when reality lands an upper cut when you least expect it.

Finally, since most avoid obstacles it stands to reason that if you lean into turning obstacles to opportunities that you have a better chance of solving the world’s biggest problems and creating world changing impact. As Elon Musk recently mentioned “Starting a company is like eating glass and staring into the abyss.” So developing the capacity to do so is more important than anything else as a founder. In the end Stoicism helped me overcome my perceived obstacles to eventually build a business that was acquired 4 years later.

Opportunity lies on the other side of obstacles.

The Obstacle is the Way.

To learn more we recommend attending our next Bootcamps and we recommend Ryan Holiday’s book “The Obstacle is the Way” and “The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius”.

Best Practices Underpinning High Performance in World Class Organizations

Edwin Moses is considered a World Class track and field athlete, he holds the longest ever winning streak of 122 wins for the 400 meter hurdles and has collected 8 1st’s across the Olympics, World Championships, IAAF World Cups and the Goodwill games, oh and broke the world record four times in his career. I guess you could say he is a high performer. Business leaders can learn a lot from what makes athletes successful, the biggest thing that stands out is their priorities.

According to McKinsey & Company, a World Class management consultancy, the two key priorities of a World Class organization should be Performance and Health. In their book ‘Beyond Performance’ authors Scott Keller and Colin Price define Organizational Health as the ability of the organization to align, execute and renew itself faster than its competitors for sustained performance. They consider this to be as important as focusing on the traditional priorities of business Performance, that’s because healthy organizations get things done quicker, better and with more impact than unhealthy ones.

I guess Edwin Moses would agree, if his priorities were just Performance he would be only focused on the stopwatch and not on all the aspects of his health that led to world class results. However, most organizations I have dealt with over the past 20 years have focused primarily on Performance with very little understanding let alone focus on Health. There are good reasons for this, shareholder expectations, short term focus, margin pressure, innovative competitors etc etc. But ask yourself these questions: Did Edwin Moses have the same challenges? Did he face threats from competitors and pressure of an international stage? and Did he stop prioritizing his focus on Health?. If he did he would not have even qualified. Business has had the wrong balance of priorities for long enough and McKinsey agrees.

The 12 elements of organizational Health include :

      • Direction
      • Leadership
      • Culture
      • Accountability
      • C0ordination
      • Capabilities
      • Motivation
      • External Orientation
      • Innovation
      • Learning
      • Agility
      • Governance

World Class organizations ensure that all 12 elements are resourced and prioritized. The results speak for themselves, in ‘Beyond Performance’ organizations with high Health are 2.2 times more likely to have an above median EBITDA margin, 2.0 times more likely to have above median growth in enterprise value to book value and 1.5 times more likely to have above median growth in net income to sales. Now who wouldn’t want to have that type of performance?

Hence, it turns out that best practices that underpin high performance have a priority on Health. Another benefit is that unlike many key factors that influence performance, i.e. customer behavior, competitive moves, regulatory changes, your organization’s health is something that you can control. Considering that more than 50% of an organizations success in the long term is driven by its Health this is great news for leaders and managers of business. It means that the efficacy of initiatives on health will lead to more predictable results.

I am certain that Edwin Moses knew this, he prioritized all the elements that would lead to his success mainly his health, fitness, nutrition, mental state, flexibility and energy levels before considering performance. This ensured long-term sustainable success and led to his dominance over a 10 year period and against much younger competitors. Focusing on controlling what you can and learning to let go of the elements that you can’t is easier said than done but is what sets the World Champs apart. Understanding the concepts of Flow for both personal and organizational benefits is also critical.

Flow conditions:

  • Clear and aligned goals
  • Real time feedback
  • Balance between Challenge and Skill
  • Space of Inspiration, Autonomy and Purpose

Finally, High Performance organizations are made up of values aligned individuals in pursuit of a mission, where trust and transparency is inspired by what people do not just by what they say. This leads to a state of Self Governance which is the ultimate state of High Performance, this is where an organization out behaves its competition because of its healthy state.

To understand how to go about this we strongly suggest engaging with Australian Corporate Wellness and Flow Engine. Our Diagnostic tools and Engagement models will help you identify a path to help make your company World Class.

Velteo gets engaged with

I know, its been a while,

Been a tad busy disrupting the disruptive market place.  ;-)

These last 6 months have certainly been eventful for both Velteo and myself. Hence the time between posts. With the completion of the acquisition of Hallman Enterprises (one of the premier technical consultancies) to compliment our maturing business process improvement consultancy and our first conference appearance at’s Cloudforce in both Sydney and Melbourne, we have learnt a heap, achieved a lot and gained some great customers along the way. To them we say thank you and we look forward to the journey ahead.

In our experience we have found that too many organizations attempt to address improvements in sales, marketing and customer service through either technology, training or some process improvement. However, our approach to improvement integrates the collective power of all three of these dimensions. That’s what makes Velteo different.

As we set out to help organizations leverage the power of for the infusion of best practices our customers and partners have confirmed that this approach is valid.

Improvements in customer engagement are not just about any one of the dimensions, its about the integration of all three to create the collaborative value chain that extends from the customer to staff. The enabling platform is technology but only when deployed with relevancy. Meeting customers and staff where they are on their terms is engagement, understanding what they want and when is intimacy and that is nirvana for any top performing organization who wants to have customers for life.

Our recent projects have seen customers enable self service strategies via online portals and seamless customer service automation, empower the sales force with mobile workforce management applications on iPhone and iPad’s, provide simple to use user experience via Visualforce for intuitive CRM and improved adoption, enhanced visibility to reports, activities and data for real business intelligence and access to lead indicators to help management drive the business. Marketing Automation for improved campaign ROI and influence with tight integration into, the silo’s are starting to dissolve. Our popular Sales Maturity Assessment is proving its worth with customers experiencing 3200% returns on recommended improvements to their sales practices.

So from a Customer Engagement stand point we certainly have a lot to offer, but how about Staff Engagement?

With the release of Chatter, is now empowering the workforce with this phenomenal engagement tool. They call it Facebook for the Enterprise, but I call it Corporate Social Networking. What better way to keep abreast of developments in the organization or even that team proposal your working on than to have Chatter notify you of contextually relevant updates. In this age of data smog and time poverty, Chatter cuts through and enriches your access to valuable information when you need it most. By integrating’s Ideas, Knowledge and Content we are seeing organizations become more agile and effective as they relinquish their old world shackles and embrace the collective power of the organization to stop reinventing the wheel, oh and without the hardware.

Finally, I wanted to say a big thank you to the team at Velteo, together we have crossed the challenge of integrating both companies and have come out stronger. I have the pleasure of working with some of the sharpest consultants in the field which has in turn caused me to raise my own game. We liken Velteo to a pirate ship, everyone is a specialist in something different but together we are a finely tuned machine with a dynamic culture and a passion for fun and happy customers. So if you want to be a Pirate on a journey of disruption then contact us here.

Oh and a BIG thank you to the advisory board, you know who you are, for without you it would have been near impossible.

In the meantime I hope to be able to post here monthly, so stay tuned and if you want to know more about Velteo, feel free to contact us here.



My review of Prezi – Awesome in so many ways

Been very keen to play with Prezi since I discovered it a month ago. Its a cool tool for creating more contextual, fluid and relational presentations in the cloud and locally on your computer. My buddy, Franky, started playing with it and demonstrated its power to me recently as well so I though I would use my Social Golf Club Presentation Night last night to play with the tool myself.

Here’s a cool conceptual video that illustrates the power and the difference of Prezi:

I discovered that the tool is great for ideas creation and brainstorming, its free flow and intuitive user interface allows you to focus on your ideas and get creative. I can easily turn my sketch of ideas into  a presentation because its all happening in the same place. I found myself thinking differently about how I would present the information and how I should make the presentation flow. This enabled me to create the presentation quickly and have fun at the same time, even my 13 year old daughter was impressed and you know how hard it is to get that kind of a response out a of a digital native. With the use of their zoom and flip functionality it made the presentation more appealing , you can find my Prezi presentation  here .

My Prezi presentation

My Prezi presentation

I also discovered that it would come in handy for taking notes in class and meetings. That would be richer, and could easily be presented when needed. This makes for better learning and time use as this Stanford video demonstrates:

The cost? They use a freemium model so the free version allows you to use the web and the desktop app (free 30 day trial) too but when loading in the cloud you post your presentation in the showcase for all to see. So beware of giving away all your secrets. Otherwise, for $59 per year you get more storage and privacy. So what are you waiting for, give Prezi a go and you may even surprise yourself with your creativity let alone your audience.

My rating 10/10 for so many different uses and reasons.

Can’t wait to work on my next Prezi for more than just a prezi.

TWiST #33 Review with Shawn Gold – An Influential Episode

Addiction to TWiST

I have a confession to make, I’m addicted to This Week in Startups (TWiST).  TWiST is a weekly podcast of interviews with New Age Entrepreneurs in a format that only its founder, Jason Calacanis, can pull off and still keep you pumped. Jason is the CEO of Mahalo a human powered search engine and recently a proud father. Most of the time the show runs for more than 2 hours and apart from a few times when the subject either doesn’t resonate or due to technical difficulties, does’nt run well, the show is packed with much thought provocation and insight into the minds and times of a successful startup.

I picked up the show by accident about 8 months ago and started listening from Episode 2, I haven’t looked back. Jason and his team (especially Tyler and Lon) do such a great job of keeping it real and raw that I recommended it to my partners and close friends as a resource to open the mind on business possibilities and execution. They too have now seen the light and we’re about to commence a TWiST meetup locally where we can riff off the topics presented from each show and build relationships with local budding entrepreneurs.

As I’m based in Sydney, I see much relevance for this type of podcast. Australia has the potential for the right ethos but for some reason I don’t feel that there is enough hustle here. Convening a local meetup could be the start of something big here.  If you’re in Sydney let us know if your keen to take part @Congo_ or @TiStartups or via this blog.

I prefer to consume the show during my commute to work (an hour each way) as TWiST is available in Audio and Video format via my iPhone. I have to admit that the show has certainly and continues to influence our own startup, Velteo.  I sometimes notice our team using Jason’s lingo like “No Doubt” and Gary V’s mantra of “Crush It”, we even started our own NOT NOW list recently as well. So for mine its a must for any person interested in business, not just startups, as the insights and challenges presented can help everyone, especially for those people looking to understand how others have monetized their ideas.

Ep 33 Review

Apart from the usual schedule of Ask Jason (Caller questions) and Jason’s Shark Tank (Pitch review), this episode featured Shawn Gold,  CEO of Cocodot (Funky greeting cards online) and founder of Social Approach, a social marketing advisory based on influence mapping technologies. Cool stuff by my books and the way marketing is heading moving forward i.e. identify the influencer’s and market to them.

Here’s the episode and my key takeaways below:

My key takeaways from the show:

  • If your Startup’s numbers aren’t right, delay your board meeting – a Jason insight.
  • Internet has changed the game but relationships (salespeople) still play a big part in business
  • Performance Marketing identifies the right person to market to. i.e.: Women 25-45 are the sweet spot for weight loss, vitamins, makeup, etc. They also hold the household purse strings in most cases.
  • Find the right people, motivate them and but most of all empower them to execute
  • Be passionate about what you sell
  • You need to have empathy and ego to win in sales according to Harvard
  • Remove the Gatekeeper by calling companies early in the morning (6:45AM) or late in the evening (8:45PM)
  • Avoided jargon at all costs, even a 12-year-old should be able to understand  your pitch
  • Social Media is a double edged sword when something goes wrong in your business
  • You’re going to get knocked down, accept it, but the champ never stops getting back up
  • Monitor your company and personal brand by setting up a Google Alert at the very least

Of course Lon’s coverage of the News was great too, the standouts for me were:

  • Facebook may be losing the plot with its privacy policies or lack thereof
  • Google’s efforts to buy Yelp could change the game as they attempt to enter the content game
  • Google and Facebook to release their own URL shorteners

The show ended with Jason announcing a competition for best review of the show wins a $500 Microsoft pack.

This was just what I needed to get me over the line and finally write this post on TWiST, I love the show so expect to see more reviews as time and content permits.

    Now of course TWiST would’nt be what it is today without alot of help from its sponsors.

    So a big THANK YOU to :


    PS: I Lurrrve Ustream!

    Cheers and keep fighting the good fight Jason,


    Is the global economic slowdown a perfect storm for new age business and technology?

    Businesses large and small are reviewing everything right now, including the effectiveness of traditional marketing, data storage, communications and computing. Business stakeholders and shareholders alike are expecting businesses to adopt smarter ways of doing business, the days of getting away with “That’s just the way we do things around here” are over. Yield optimisation is on everyone’s lips, measurability, efficiency and productivity has now become the drivers behind social marketing, cloud computing and enterprise 2.0 initiatives. Why? Because they are more effective, cheaper and reap better long term results for both the business and its customers.

    Social media tools have changed the way customers socialise what they like or dislike, its changed the way I do search for the latest version of a widget I am interested in and how I get endorsement for that widget. Business can do its own research on what the market thinks about its brand or latest product without asking a third party, business can engage with its market without going through traditional middle men, speeding up response times and enabling insight which in turn impacts innovation and relevant product releases. Its safe to say that the Growndswell is here to stay as more and more big brands adopt social marketing into their mix and as many software vendors begin to integrate social media into their products, like Social CRM.

    Data centres in their current form may not exist for much longer. Data is moving to the cloud. The kind of computing that the Google, Amazon, Facebook, and others have become synonymous with will come to the common data centre realm soon. Today, IT managers add capacity, fault tolerance, fail over, load balancing, and other data centre features painstakingly much for storage scalability and performance in an incessant manner. Just when they begin to feel that they have enough capacity and performance built in to their systems, that they have made their data centre future proof, there is a new need on the performance or expandability front. Combine this with the Global Financial Crisis and the subsequent global economic downturn and you have a compelling reason to change.

    Cloud computing will make it much less painful to manage, scale and develop a reliable, high performance platform without running a single data centre. Cloud computing is often compared to electrical utility where one pays for what he uses and when he uses. Gartner predicts that by “2012, 80 percent of Fortune 1000 enterprises will be paying for some cloud computing services, and 30 percent will be paying for cloud computing infrastructure services.” is a perfect example for the future of cloud computing. They have now come to offer computing power over the web to would be customers. “Since early 2006, Amazon Web Services (AWS) has provided companies of all sizes with an infrastructure web services platform in the cloud. With AWS you can requisition computing power, storage, and other services–gaining access to a suite of elastic IT infrastructure services as your business demands them.” is also another great example of Cloud Computing success, providing CRM, Customer Service and Marketing automation functionality in the cloud yet still managing to offer customizability to suit all business needs. This segment is so robust that its been managing to buck the current economic downturn, SFDC recently posted a 20% increase in quarterly revenues, not bad considering that its traditional on premise competitors such as Oracle and SAP are reviewing forecasts downwards. Other examples of cloud computing that’s already out there include Google Docs, the MS Office competitor and Slide Rocket (for great online presentations).

    Cloud computing offers significant cost savings for IT functions that are large-scale as well as small scale. Other advantages include management and scalability. Contrary to some pundits views, Cloud Computing is more than a buzz word and although much more has to happen for it to get into main stream business, the business merits for it are clear. So, the future where we stop worrying about our server being up, may not be far away. It is already here, we just have to figure out what we are going to do with it.

    Enterprise 2.0 is expected to be the next big thing for agile, productive and effective corporations wanting to attract the best of the next generation. To aid product development velocity, customer experience management and IP management something has to give, traditional methods of communication, data and knowledge sharing methods and tools are ineffective now. To get to the next level of competitiveness corporations must change with the times and the tools that now afford them. The use of Corporate Blogs, Wikis, podcasts and microblogging when used with a new age methodology that incorporates transperancy, accountability and responsibility will lead to peak performance across teams and the entire organisation as staff intuitively work together and experience the rewards as well.

    So I think the answer is YES! The economic slowdown will force the right decisions to be made, because it makes good business sense and because its too painfull to do nothing anymore.

    See how Fender used Social Media to spread the word.

    My first Netiquette lesson

    I recently posted an article titled ‘Twitter for ME 2.0′ and in so doing had cut and pasted most of my list from a great site Marketing Professor. My intention was to further augment this list with others but in the end I couldn’t add more than just a few, purely because the list was so good. Even though I acknowledged the source, this was’nt good enough, at this point I should have asked for permission from the source, I guess this is just good netiquette.  So having learnt my lesson and removed the list from here I thought I would repay Marketing Professor by redirected any little traffic my site gets to his original post. Apologies for my overzealous action Marketing Professor, I’m just an eager student willing to spread the word.

    Inventing uses for Twitter


    Republished from my favorite site

    NYU professor Clay Shirky gave a fantastic talk on new media during our TED@State event earlier this month. He revealed how cellphones, the web, Facebook and Twitter had changed the rules of the game, allowing ordinary citizens extraordinary new powers to impact real-world events. As protests in Iran exploded over the weekend, we decided to rush out his talk, because it could hardly be more relevant. I caught up with Clay this afternoon to get his take on the significance of what is happening. HIs excitement was palpable.

    What do you make of what’s going on in Iran right now.
    I’m always a little reticent to draw lessons from things still unfolding, but it seems pretty clear that … this is it. The big one. This is the first revolution that has been catapulted onto a global stage and transformed by social media. I’ve been thinking a lot about the Chicago demonstrations of 1968 where they chanted “the whole world is watching.” Really, that wasn’t true then. But this time it’s true … and people throughout the world are not only listening but responding. They’re engaging with individual participants, they’re passing on their messages to their friends, and they’re even providing detailed instructions to enable web proxies allowing Internet access that the authorities can’t immediately censor. That kind of participation is reallly extraordinary.

    Which services have caused the greatest impact? Blogs? Facebook? Twitter?
    It’s Twitter. One thing that Evan (Williams) and Biz (Stone) did absolutely right is that they made Twitter so simple and so open that it’s easier to integrate and harder to control than any other tool. At the time, I’m sure it wasn’t conceived as anything other than a smart engineering choice. But it’s had global consequences. Twitter is shareable and open and participatory in a way that Facebook’s model prevents. So far, despite a massive effort, the authorities have found no way to shut it down, and now there are literally thousands of people aorund the world who’ve made it their business to help keep it open.

    Do you get a sense that it’s almost as if the world is figuring out live how to use Twitter in these circumstances? Some dissidents were using named accounts for a while, and there’s been a raging debate in the community about how best to help them.
    Yes, there’s an enormous reckoning to be had about what works and what doesn’t. There have been disagreements over whether it was dangerous to use hashtags like #Iranelection, and there was a period in which people were openly tweeting the IP addresses of web proxies for people to switch to, not realizing that the authorities would soon shut these down. It’s incredibly messy, and the definitive rules of the game have yet to be written. So yes, we’re seeing the medium invent itself in real time.

    Talk some more about the sense of participation on Twitter. It seems to me that that has spurred an entirely deeper level of emotional connection with these events.
    Absolutely. I’ve been saying this for a while — as a medium gets faster, it gets more emotional. We feel faster than we think. But Twitter is also just a much more personal medium. Reading personal messages from individuals on the ground prompts a whole other sense of involvement. We’re seeing everyone desperate to do something to show solidarity like wear green — and suddenly the community figures out that it can actually offer secure web proxies, or persuade Twitter to delay an engineering upgrade — we can help keep the medium open.

    When I see John Perry Barlow setting himself up as a router, he’s not performing these services as a journalist. He’s engaged. Traditional media operates as source of inofrmation not as a means of coordination. It can’t do more than make us sympathize. Twitter makes us empathize. It makes us part of it. Even if it’s just retweeting, you’re aiding the goal that dissidents have always sought: the awareness that the ouside world is paying attention is really valuable.

    Of course the downside of this emotional engagement is that while this is happening, I feel like I can’t in good consicence tweet about anything else!

    There was fury on Twitter against CNN for not adequately covering the situation. Was that justified?
    In a way it wasn’t. I’m sure that for the majority of the country, events in Iran are not of grave interest, even if those desperate for CNN’s Iran info couldn’t get access to it. That push model of one message for all is an incredibly crappy way of linking supply and demand.

    CNN has the same problem this decade that Time magazine had last decade. They simultaneously want to appeal to middle America and leading influencers. Reaching multiple audiences is increasingly difficult. The people who are hungry for info on events of global significance are used to instinctively switching on CNN. But they are realizng that that reflex doesn’t serve them very well anymore, and that can’t be good for CNN.

    Do you get the sense that these new media tools are helping build a global community, forged more by technology and a desire for connection, than by traditional political or religious divides?
    You can see it clearly in what’s happening right now. And it cuts both ways. The guy we’re rallying around, Mousavi, is no liberal reformer. But the principle of freedom of speech and fair elections and the desire for reform trump that.

    So how does this play out?
    It’s complex. The Ahmadinejad supporters are going to use the fact of English-speaking and American participation to try to damn the dissidents. But whatever happens from here, the dissidents have seen that large numbers of American people, supposedly part of “the great Satan,” are actually supporters. Someone tweeted from Tehran today that “the American media may not care, but the American people do.” That’s a sea-change.

    What are your thoughts, I love how Twitter is continouosly being invented, forever in beta, by the masses?

    “Groundswell” an influential book on new age marketing

    A book I devoured recently that in many ways changed my view of what works in todays world of marketing.If you so much as dip your toe in social media, you’ll hear about the groundswell. Coined by Forrester Researchers Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff in Groundswell: Winning in a World Transformed by Social Technologies, groundswell is “a social trend in which people use technologies to get the things they need from each other, rather than from traditional institutions like corporations.” In this book, the authors 1) advise companies to adopt groundswell thinking, 2) encourage exploration of social technologies to tap the groundswell., and 3) instruct how to plan and execute groundswell engagement. Ultimately, however, the book is less about what to do and more about how to be. Groundswell is a mindset.

    People can get what they need from each other without technologies;barter has been on the rise during the recession. Social technologies allow for those exchanges to increasingly happen among strangers, in larger numbers, and with greater impact. In the process of exchange strangers become less strange, people satisfy their and others’ needs better, and, curiously, something bigger than the sum of groundswell parts arises.

    Most, if not all, of the book’s content is online, on the Groundswell blog and scattered around the blogosphere, quoted, rehashed, expanded, built upon… Comprehensive overviews of social technologies, the social technographics ladder, the POST (People, Objectives, Strategy, Technologies) method framework for groundswell engagement planning, strategies for tapping the groundswell (listening, talking, energizing, supporting, and embracing), are all out there. The source book packages all the information in a single, non-hyperlinked place (which is what makes books great).

    The principal takeaway for sustainable companies and their marketers is that groundswell thinking, exploration, and engagement is principally about relationships. People are the first element of POST. More importantly, “concentrate on the relationships, not the technologies” is “the principle for mastering the groundswell”. People and relationships are the core of social sustainability. The authors make no explicit connection between the groundswell and sustainability and no sustainable companies are showcased, but perhaps that’s the part of the book left for future research. Regardless, once you engage with it, the transformative power of the groundswell will turn your company into a more socially sustainable one anyway.

    Because groundswell is about people and relationships among them (us?), the list of people’s reasons for groundswell participation stood out for me. It seems success in groundswell engagement depends on satisfying any or combination of these needs:

    • keeping up friendships
    • making new friends
    • peer pressure – to avoid being left out
    • paying it forward – to help others in reward for past or in hope for future help to self
    • helping others (the altruistic impulse)
    • watching others (the prurient or voyeuristic impulse)
    • expressing oneself (the creative impulse)
    • validating own knowledge and expertise (the validation impulse)
    • connecting with people with similar interests or views (the affinity impulse)

    This may all sound theoretical but the authors back their talk with many examples. The use of case studies, showcasing how companies have used social media well, is, in fact, the most positive aspect of the book. I get tired opening my Reader every morning to see the stream of brands-don’t-get-it and this-company-screwed-up blog posts. The book shows brands do get it and companies do succeed in the groundswell, with different people, with different objectives, with different strategies and with different technologies. As the authors put it, “there is no ‘right way’ to engage with the groundswell”. Hence, groundswell is nothing to be scared of, just follow these three  steps:

    1.    Read the book (you’ll wish you’d read this book before you started)
    2.    Start small and build up to scale while measuring impact
    3.    Take it step by step (strategy by strategy, technology by technology) and learn and adjust as you go

    And, be transformed in the process. Because change for the better is a beautiful thing. Thanks be to Peter at his Sustainable Marketing Blog.

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