A world before the World Wide Web?

Here’s a documentary I want to see. Two families living life as it was were before the world wide web arrived. For most homes that was some time during the 1990’s. I imagine life is very different for teenagers, toddlers and parents today compared to say in 1985. We’ve all seen the documentaries comparing life in the distant past – this farming one living like it’s 1885 comes to mind. But how would today compare to just 30 years ago – 1986 to 2016?

I think we’d find it is more different than we remember or younger people expect. I’d love to see a house, school, shopping, media, politics, transport systems all set up to run the experiment with a family or two. Document it – compare it to our modern economy and boom – compelling viewing

Someone go make it – it’s a cool idea for free. I’m sure a production company or TV station would love it.

You can thank me at the award ceremony.

Love, Stevie.


A little story about “A” players

'A' Players

No doubt you want your startup to be filled with ‘A player’ hackers and hustlers.

This is the common reason why we people talk up the importance of so called A players:

A Players attract A Players


B Players attract C players.

Personally, I think we are all A,B and C players. What determines our quality of play is the culture we are immersed in. The people we are around, the tasks we are asked to do, whether this is the right industry or project for us, and maybe even the playing habits of those in charge.

I strongly believe A, B and C players are a function of the environment, not the person. We’ve all had periods and places where we’ve excelled and others where we have been the weak link. So in real terms, our job in any organisation should be about creating a culture where A players happen to emerge.

Follow me on SnapChat – search ‘Sammartron’ for more business insight.

Don’t waste time finding the best person

The best person

Every now and again there’s a rock band who are global superstars, who also happen to have world class musicians in the band. Eric Clapton and Cream, Chad Smith of the Red Hot Chilli Peppers. But more often the great rock bands have a style and an ethic which is amalgamation of the players. But these players are not world class on their own. I’d put U2 in this category. The four Beatles make the Beatles. John Lennon was a brilliant genius and successful solo musician, but he couldn’t make girls scream on his own. He was different.

In startups what we are really building is a team and a culture. We talk about trying to find the best coder, the best UX guru, the ultimate growth hacker, but we should focus on is having the best culture where amazing collaborations can happen. If we want to be the best at something, we should probably be working on our own.

You should totally read my book – The Great Fragmentation.

Welcome to the culture of Extremistan

Jet pack flying

Famed author and modern day renaissance man Nassim Taleb talks about Extremistan. While his analysis refers to black swan events, randomness and outliers in the economic world, it seems as though pop culture is on a similar trajectory.

Tattoos used to be an extreme thing in themselves. Now real tattoo people have to differentiate through full body cover and face tattoos. Extreme Sports used to mean things beyond golf, football and athletics like motocross. Now they look more like base jumping, jetpack flying and cave diving. Game Shows used to be about trivia and family fun guessing answers to win cars. Now they involve near death experiences on tropical islands to win millions of dollars and potential reality stardom. Travel Stories used to be interesting enough when someone visited far flung Asia or eastern Europe. Now hardcore globe trotters visit Afghanistan and Honduras to ensure their story gathers more kudos.

I’m sure you can think of another zillion examples of the progression towards our culture of extremistan. It is a clear reminder we are in a world which is so connected and immediate that most things have already been seen and done. What used to be unusual is just the new normal. There’s very little scarcity when it comes to ‘things and activities’. And because one of the only things that is scarce these days is attention, many people are literally risking their lives to get it. This tells us much about the human condition. We crave attention. But attention is really just a proxy for something much more human. We want to be recognised and acknowledged, and maybe deep down we just want to feel loved.

What an opportunity. To pay attention to everyone, and not just those who will go to the extreme to get it. Genuinely caring about people and making them feel your love might be the best low cost strategy we can find these days.

New Book – The Great Fragmentation – out now!

Mindset & Tools

Digital Mindset

There’s a whole lot of tools we have at our disposal which didn’t even exist a few years ago. From a business perspective many of them present a counter intuitive option to the ‘Harvard Industrial Complex’. Yes, those established principals of what we thought we already knew about what worked in the market.

Trust the crowd to co-design our product? Are you crazy?

Get funding from future customers with out giving equity? How we going to do that?

Share revenue with content creating customers? Don’t be silly let’s keep it all for ourselves.

Co-opt with our competitors to grow the entire ecosystem? No way, let’s grow our market share instead.

Launch products with lower margin than those they’ll cannibalise? It’s uneconomic and stupid.

When the world changes, what once seemed ridiculous quickly becomes rational. Startups are now redefining what can work in a world driven by cheap and even disposable technology. It turns out having access to the new tools is not enough, we also need access to a new mindset.

New book – The Great Fragmentation – out now!

Even startup culture is a just a remix

Startup culture is becoming a big thing in the wider community. It’s seemingly graduated from a high tech nerdy subculture into a mainstream pop culture giant overnight. But is it really anything new? Or is it just a rebranding of small business as we knew it with some terrific superlatives and rockstar billionaire game winners to give us that Bruce Springsteen stadium rock ethic? Certainly the technology revolution we are all living through is significant. Significant enough to make it easier than it has ever been in history to start a business.

Net result is that startup culture hot. Just like grunge music was in the early 1990’s. Anyone with a pair of ripped jeans in a dive bar was in a band. And now anyone with a wifi connection and a laptop is launching a startup. The simplest way to remind ourselves that everything is a remix is to kick it old school and see how our new startup words stack up:

  • Pivot – used to be called adapting to the market.
  • Iteration – used to be called a product improvement.
  • MVP – used to be a prototype or a test market.
  • Growth Hackers – used to be what marketers and sales people were called.
  • Truth North -used to be known as the single minded proposition.
  • Runway – used to be known as the bank balance and how long we had left before going bust.
  • Burn Rate – used to be a sign that this new business venture wasn’t going so well.
  • Lean – used to be called doing things on a budget. (Oh, The pyramids were the first lean startup….. those pyramids were meant to be big square blocks but they ran out of materials, and just went with the pyramids instead – turned out to be a killer feature.)

And if you’re still in doubt here’s my favourite culture remix right here: The original version of Nirvana song Come as you are, was actually this song called Eighties by Killing Joke.

The Employee to Entrepreneur conversion

If you’re reading this and you currently work for a company you don’t have an equity stake in – I reckon there’s a pretty good chance you’re planning your cubicle escape route. Today I wrote a post for Pollenizer on my Top 10 things employees need to know before they jump ship. The thing about entrepreneurship is that it is a change in environment. And like all new environments we enter the biggest challenges we face are never intellectual, but cultural.

You can read it here.