Dan Sweet

How To Keep Up With Industry News In 3 Simple Steps

Imagine a leisurely lunch followed by a stop at the espresso machine on the way back to your desk. Suddenly, your boss’s boss strolls up and your mellow afternoon vibe instantly fades. Boss^2 makes some polite small talk and comments on a recent industry event.  You respond by … staring blankly? This happens to people all too often, and it is completely unnecessary. With three simple tweaks, you can be the master of the latest news in your field and securely enjoy your espressos from now on. Read on to see how I keep up with industry news.

Disclaimer: I work on battery innovation, strategy and finance in my day job and I also have some geeky leanings in my personal interests. Apologies if the topics I mention sound deathly boring. Please take away the concepts and the tools and just replace the specific sites and topics mentioned with your much more interesting content!

Principles:
• Always be learning
• Use “spare” time efficiently

Step 1 – Source Basic Content with a Combination of Apps, Email, Blogs:
Stitcher – Great mobile app for listening to podcasts. Download it via your app store of choice.
– Subscribe to “This Week in Startups” podcast (2x / week – 1 interview with a startup founder or investor, 1 news roundup)
– Add other podcasts of interest (I like WSJ this Morning, NPR Hourly News Summary, etc)
Digest emails – Tend to send daily or weekly emails that might surface interesting reads I have missed in my normal workflow. Medium.com, Quartz.com, Digg.com, Slideshare.com, Quora.com, Twitter.com Sign up on the individual sites? (Not sure how I started getting these.)
Quora.com – I search on Quora to research new areas, find subject matter experts to follow on Twitter, share opinions, be amused, connect, etc.
Blogs – I used to use RSS via Google reader to follow 30+ blogs regularly. Now if they write something good, people in my network tend to tweet it and I’ll see it. If I want to “catch up” on a specific person I’ll go to their blog directly. AVC.com, Feld.com, cdixon.org, bothsidesofthetable.com, bhorowitz.com, a16z.com, bostonvcblog.typepad.com, reidhoffman.org (all prominent VCs or entrepreneurs)

Step2 – Take Conscious Steps to Build in Serendipity:
Twitter.com – I use it almost exclusively through mobile app. Sign up at Twitter.com. Facebook is the people you know. Twitter is the people you wish you knew. I either get things directly from Twitter (via random browsing) or from a product/service that lets me log in with Twitter. That product then knows my taste graph based on who I follow on Twitter and can serve me relevant content.
LinkedIn.com – follow companies and Influencers you are interested in to get good content in your news feed and digest emails.
GetPrismatic.com – algorithmically-sourced news from around the web –define topics you are interested in and get relevant news automatically in an infinite scroll newsfeed style – I use it primarily on my desktop.

Step 3 – Give Back by Curating and Sharing:
Bufferapp.com – Chrome Browser extension allows me to easily comment on and share any Chrome tab to LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter or any combination thereof.
Evernote.com – I use the Google Chrome Web Clipper browser extension and “Save Full Page” anything I want to be able to access in the future via a keyword search on mobile or desktop. Sign up at Evernote.com for free.

Simple Steps to Integrate Into Daily Life
• Mowing the lawn, buying groceries, commuting – listen to audio via Stitcher
• Downtime btw meetings / lunch at desk – GetPrismatic.com – open a bunch of interesting stories in new tabs then scan and close 90%, archive 5% via Evernote Web Clipper, share 5% via Buffer with appropriate social network.
• Brief downtime away from a desktop – click through to a story from a digest email in my inbox, or open mobile Twitter app, read interesting links, RT, see what buzz is about.
• Sitting on couch watching TV with the wife – Same as downtime btw meetings above.

Dan’s personal content sources below:

Entities I follow on LinkedIn that might be of general interest:
People: Tim Brown, Reid Hoffman, Paul Kedrosky
Companies: YouTube, Microsoft, Dwolla, P&G, Evernote, Netflix, Twitter, Amazon, Uber, Pinterest, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google, Cintrifuse, Dropbox, Lego Group, Greycroft Partners, @WalmartLabs, Metamarkets, dunnhumby

My “Interests” as explicitly defined by me on GetPrismatic.com:
YouTube, Mobile Technology, Online Advertising, Silicon Valley, Marketing, Data Mining, Poker, Google Chrome, Statistics, Machine Learning, Startups, Productivity, Android, Data Visualization, Venture Capital, Management, Innovation, Procter & Gamble, Artificial Intelligence, Entrepreneurship, Google, Computer Science, Duracell, Facebook, Batteries, Robotics, Twitter

The 100-ish most-followed people I follow on Twitter: (generated using twitonomy.com)

@a16z
@adage
@AlexiLalas
@AliceMartin8
@AllthingsD
@AlpMimar
@annieleibovitz
@AntDeRosa
@baratunde
@bfeld
@bgurley
@bhorowitz
@biz
@buffer
@BuzzFeedBen
@cdixon
@chr1sa
@chriswolferts
@claychristensen
@clint_dempsey
@DanielPink
@DaveRamsey
@dickc
@dongatory
@Duracell
@elonmusk
@eMarketer
@ev
@firstround
@FiveThirtyEight
@fredwilson
@Gartner_inc
@garyvee
@googleresearch
@GoogleVentures
@hnshah
@howardlindzon
@hunterwalk
@jack_welch
@jack
@jasonfried
@Jason
@JeffBooth
@jeff
@jennydeluxe
@Jermainejunior
@johnbattelle
@johndoerr
@joshk
@kevinrose
@KISSmetrics
@levie
@LIVESTRONGCEO
@mattyglesiast
@mcuban
@Medium
@MichaelHyatt
@mkapor
@mlevchin
@mqtoddl
@MrKRudd
@MSFTResearch
@msuster
@NateSilver538
@naval
@newsycombinator
@nickbilton
@om
@paulg
@petershankman
@PeterWinick
@pkedrosky
@pmarca
@RaviZacharias
@reidhoffman
@sacca
@satyanadella
@Sequoia_Capital
@sherylsandberg
@ShowtimeTate
@sorenmacbeth
@StartupReport
@StartupWeekend
@steverubel
@SwiftKey
@techstars
@ThomRainer
@tide
@tim_cook
@TimHowardGK
@timoreilly
@UpshotNYT
@venturehacks
@vkhosla
@voxdotcom
@WarrenBuffett

That is it.  Go sign up for some accounts, follow some people, subscribe to some podcasts, etc.  Do some listening, some reading and some sharing. Please leave a comment below sharing your favorite resources for staying current.

Most importantly though – go enjoy that espresso with confidence!

How I launched a lean startup for $8.17

I launched a startup today.

That might sound like a big statement, but it was really pretty easy. The whole thing took 3-4 hours of spare time on my iPhone and laptop while hanging around the house taking care of a 1 and a 3-year old. Total cost $8.17.

First, two helpful definitions of a startup:

Eric Reis’s The Lean Startup – “an organization dedicated to creating something new under conditions of extreme uncertainty”
Steve Blank‘s Customer Development – “search for a scalable, profitable business model”

This post by Steve Blank provides a step-by-step guide to launching a web startup and was very helpful. Tons of great links and pointers to tools. The most useful tool I found linked to in the article was the Lean Launch Lab. Stepping back a little, there is some classic work on business models by Alexander Osterwalder in his book Business Model Generation. The main premise is that you can lay out an entire end-to-end business model in nine small boxes on one sheet of paper. Layer Steve Blank’s Customer Development work on top of Alexander’s Business Model Canvas and you get what Steve Blank has been teaching in his entrepreneurship classes at Stanford and elsewhere – the Lean Launchpad.  Leanlaunchlab.com was built to turn this whole process into a simple to use web app. Watch the 1-minute video at the site to get the sense for how the process flows. I completed the entire Business Model Canvas on my iPhone while feeding a 1 and a 3-year old breakfast on a lazy Sunday morning. I switched over to a browser to write an initial hypothesis to test, design a test, establish some metrics and write a list of to-do’s to execute the test. A day later, I’ve got 5 of my 7 initial Tasks completed and have my first test underway.

My < 140 character elevator pitch is “Protect your stock portfolio and spot the best opportunities with meaningful real-time alerts.” I’ve got a basic landing page with email sign-up built at TradesthatMatter.com and I’ll be tweeting at @TTMAlerts .  The $8.17 was the domain registration fee at godaddy.com with a coupon from retailmenot.com.  Follow me on Twitter and sign up at the site to keep track of my progress.

“There are weeds over there too!” (Greener grass and all)

I spent some time a while back in a training for “managers of others”.  One component of the training involved salary planning as well as some commentary on motivating and retaining employees.  P&G spends a lot of money to recruit and hire its managers and would like to retain them for 30 years plus, as long as the performance is there.  Various scenarios were discussed that involved different combinations of work, location, role, rewards, management style that might deliver a positive experience for the employee.  Eventually though, we got to the “what do you do when someone says they are leaving” question.

The HR leader leading the training said that his basic approach is consistent and simple.  “There are weeds over there too!”  That is the bulk of the approach.  Help people process the fact that the things pissing them off here likely exist over there too.

As I think about my career it is easy to look at other industries or geographies and think life might be better there.  My favorite tool that I find useful to provide a reality check when I begin to think along those lines is Glassdoor.com.  If you haven’t used Glassdoor before, head on over and setup a free account.  Read employee verbatims of what they like and hate about their companies.  Read their “advice to senior management”.  See what they get paid, what their bonuses, profit sharing, etc is.  It is amazing how quickly the glow can come off of some glamorous sounding jobs when you read a half dozen reviews from people working in your function at the company that all complain about the same thing.  Whether it is nepotism, office politics, work-life balance, no raises, no career planning, terrible systems, an organizational prejudice against a certain function, an outsourcing trend, etc – WAY better to know that dynamic exists up front.

P&G has 127,000+ employees.  No matter how good of a screening job you do, there will still be some jerks in a group that big.  However, as Glassdoor demonstrates, we are now living in the age of transparency.  If organizations as a whole exhibit significant dysfunctions in their culture, people WILL find out.  I hear people (mostly from older generations) bemoan the new openness and public nature of the Internet.  I’m a big believer in the old adage that “sunshine is the best disinfectant”.  I think if you are a good person or a good company that generally does the right thing, you have nothing to fear from transparency and openness. Go check out Glassdoor.  Post a review of your company.  Go read some reviews from employees at companies you are envious of.  “Test drive” that greener grass from the safety of your couch.  Leave a comment below and let me know what you find that surprises you.

Quora vs. Namesake (Quora wins by TKO)

I’ve written glowingly about Quora before. I’ve since cut back on my Quora usage significantly. I think this is probably common and natural. I’d also “applied” for membership to Namesake.com months back, and just got invited to register today.

Quora won.

Originally the two sites had similarly strong buzz. Looking at the landscape today it looks like Namesake’s invite-only closed beta approach lost them the fight. No critical mass of users = no compelling content base = TKO. Still stumbling around, but it is obvious to everyone else you are done.

Quora is completely crushing Namesake based on my 15 min of browsing. Namesake seems like a ghost town compared to Quora. Activity levels and total membership both look low in comparison. With those initial impressions of the site, I’m not motivated to contribute. I work in finance, so lets take the Corporate Finance topic as an example. 7 people are following it and one conversation exists. The one conversation is basically this: “Demand Media’s IPO went well, don’t you think the market is overpriced?” First of all, it is the market. That is what it is worth. If you disagree, then go short it. This doesn’t sound like the place I am going to go for corporate finance advice. Additionally, if only 7 people are following the Corporate Finance topic, do I really want to start spouting my thoughts on corporate finance? I might get “endorsed” or become an “expert”, but that doesn’t jive with the real world. I know way more than 7 people at P&G that have much more sick finance skills than me. Pretending I’m a baller on the internet doesn’t seem like a value-added activity. At Quora, people throw out opinions that get vetted/validated by the crowd. You don’t need to claim any expertise to participate. Upvotes fly fast and furious to incent participation and the ranking of answers based on votes vs a chronological ordering seems to be a much more elegant and engaging solution.

It looks to me like Namesake lost this one. Worst of all, it looks like they did it to themselves with their choice of beta style. Alternatively, the alignment of their PR efforts and product readiness was just way off. That’s the only way I can explain this outcome.

Test: posting via iPhone

I’m posting this via iphone. I’ve always wanted to post more consistently and am hoping this might help. I always have my phone on me and this app seems decent so I’m giving it a go. I’m a little scared I will have some unfortunate Damn You Autocorrect moment thanks to the iPhone but no risk no reward right? Insert test of multitasking skills: just turned on the SiriusXM app and got the address for DYAC.

http://damnyouautocorrect.com/4077/10-most-popular-autocorrects-from-december-2010/.

Check that link out for a good laugh and be grateful you don’t have an iPhone so it can’t brutalize you like it did those poor saps. Ok, end of test – looks like this basically works. We’ll see if this enables me to post more frequently.