Jun 262009

Ah, Summer in New York

This graphic about says it all.

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Filed under: New York

Jun 242009

On the Other Hand…

On the Other Hand…

A couple days ago, I wrote about how crummy the customer service experience was with Clear going out of business with no notice and no apology. 

Today my inbox revealed the exact opposite experience:

Greetings from Amazon.com.

 

You saved $1.40 with Amazon.com’s Pre-order Price Guarantee!

 

The price of the item(s) decreased after you ordered them, and we gave you the lowest price.

I didn’t even know Amazon had a Pre-order Price Guarantee.  They could have gotten away with not giving it to me, and I would have never even thought about it.  Great experience!

Filed under: Business

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Jun 242009

Techstars: One Pitfall to Avoid

Techstars:  One Pitfall to Avoid

George and I met with our Techstars “mentee” companies again yesterday.  As was the case with the last meetings, the sessions were energizing and fun and great to see new companies unfolding. One lesson I was reminded of yesterday with both companies is a timeless one, since at least the beginning of the commercial internet:

Don’t create a “solution looking for a problem”

I call this the Pointcast problem, after the mid-90s service that pulled headlines into screensavers and clogged corporate networks until the fad passed. 

One of the companies we’re working with has this challenge looming in front of them.  They have a very cool concept and technology.  It’s clear that it solves some problems, but there are many possible problems it solves, for many different people.

The key to get past this hurdle in the development of a business is to force yourself to articulate one or more very clear, crisp definitions of “it solves THIS problem for THIS person who is willing to pay THIS amount of money to have the problem solved.”  Even if you end up with two or three of these statements to then go concept test in the market, at least you will be able to shape your product and messaging development towards getting into the revenue jetstream somewhere, to quote my friend David Kidder from Clickable.

Jun 232009

A Clear Problem

A Clear Problem

I got this email in my inbox late last night:

Dear Matt Blumberg,

At 11:00 p.m. PST today, Clear will cease operations. Clear's parent company, Verified Identity Pass, Inc. has been unable to negotiate an agreement with its senior creditor to continue operations.

After today, Clear lanes will be unavailable.

Sincerely,
Clear Customer Support

Regardless of what you think of the Clear service (these are the paid-express lanes in a handful of airports), this is just a crummy way to shut down a business.  Not even a hint of "we're sorry we took your money and are keeping the money and can't give you the service we promised any more."

Maybe this particular situation or Chapter 7 bankruptcies don't allow for much time, but come on.  There must be a more dignified way of shutting down a business.

Filed under: Business

Jun 182009

The Passion of the Specialist

The Passion of the Specialist

I remember once talking to my friend Cella when she was between jobs.  She said she was working out 9 hours a week, which I found stunning at the time.  I try very hard to get 3 hours a week in, and I am usually successful, but it's not without sacrificing sleep and being deliberate about my schedule.  So 9 felt luxurious, but appropriate for someone between jobs.

With that as a frame of reference, I have heard lots of definitions or embodiments of the word "commitment" before, but I ran across another one the other day that I still find mindboggling.  I have a gym friend at the New York Sports Club where I work out — one of those anonymous friends that people get in New York that's not really a friend.  The guy on the train.  The woman behind the counter at the deli, etc.  People, as Bert & Ernie would say, who are "in the neighborhood that you see every day."

This guy, Jonathan, is a gifted runner.  That's clear from watching him, even on a treadmill.  He runs 6 minute miles without breaking much of a sweat.  And he can go for a long time.  I am only in the gym a few times a week, so it never occurred to me until today to ask him how much he runs and works out each week.  80-90 miles running, and 14-15 hours a week total including weights and biking, was the answer.  He's not training for a marathon, or an ironman.  He just loves running and being in shape.

That's a level of commitment that's stunning and reminds me that we can make time to do anything really well if we set our minds to it and are willing to sacrifice other things to get there.  The passion of the specialist is a rare and special thing — it isn't better or worse than the breadth of a talented generalist, but it's amazing to see and quite inspiring.

Filed under: Current Affairs

Jun 102009

Poking a little fun at VCs

Poking a little fun at VCs

Fred posted a great slideshow this morning of “things VCs will never say.”  I can’t tell if the show is meant to be serious or not — some of the things would be great to hear from VCs, some would be terrible — though Fred’s comment at the bottom leads me to believe he thinks it was serious.

At any rate, it reminded me of the brilliant and hilarious “VC Calendar Calisthenics” post of Dave Hornick from 5-6 years ago, which you can see here.  Even if you’ve read it before, it’s worth a refresher.

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