The Startup Bubble

There are few things any established industrial economy needs more of than new businesses, but I’m here to say that ‘startups’ might not be the answer. Firstly, there are a lot of businesses calling themselves a startups, when in reality, they’re really just new, small businesses. So, what is a startup?

Startup = A new type of business trying to uncover a business model which doesn’t exist yet. Often, they want to leverage a new technology and be a better solution to an existing problem. A startup isn’t just a small business trying to grow with an established method, like say, a café. It’s a new way of doing business in a certain arena.

This definition is why they can attract large sums of speculative investment – the prize of winning can be big.

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The amount of technological innovation is providing scope for many great startups. But business, like anything, isn’t immune to getting caught up in fashion. Yep, business is massively influenced by what is fashionable. If you run a startup – here are a few things that are highly unfashionable at the moment.

  • To be profitable
  • To self-fund
  • To want to remain small or medium-sized
  • To enter an established industry and just do it better
  • To not try and change the world

The Silicon Valley ethic now runs deep – despite the current tech-lash. There’ll be a lot of startups that realise not everyone (in fact, nearly no one) ends up with a unicorn or gets bought out by big tech. And this is where the problem lies. No one wants to simply run a business, make profit and employ people. Everyone wants to change the world instead of their suburb.

Yes, every technology revolution creates new behemoths which redefine commerce, but the probability of being one of these is extremely low. In fact, it’s a really bad bet to even try.  I’m not trying to steal anyone’s dream. I’m trying to do the opposite and actually help you achieve it. Here’s why.

There has simply never been a better time in history to start a small business, be a freelancer and earn a well above average income by staying small and not aiming for all-or-nothing. Never before have we all had such an equal playing field to start anything. Access to knowledge, finance, manufacturing, promotional tools, distribution, logistics, publishing, you name it. It’s all possible for anyone with internet access, imagination and tenacity. We can literally invent money through organising the factors of production in a new manner, and we don’t need a venture capitalist to help us do it.

What every entrepreneur should remember is that when a startup raises capital, they end up with a boss, which is exactly the thing that most entrepreneurs want to leave behind.  If I see another so-called success story of some startup founders standing in front of a brick wall at a co-working space smiling because they just raised $x million in capital I might even scream… it seems to me so many people have forgotten what should be the biggest motivation of all – independence. Isn’t that why people chase money? For the independence it buys?

So here’s the kicker with all this: more entrepreneurs should aim to run business instead of a startup, to actually make a profit and grow organically. A successful business has options, the owner can stay in control, gain financial power and some wisdom along the way. If entrepreneurs do that, then they might have a better chance to scale and actually change more than their suburb.

Thanks for reading, Steve.

The Blockchain Evolution

New technology often goes through a hype cycle, but few get get hyped more than Blockchain. I imagine most of my readers are across it, if not, I wrote a blockchain 101 article you can read in 2 minutes flat. Now, I’ll put my hand up high, and admit right here and now that I’m a true believer. Before I tell you why, the image below is the reason I decided to write this.

I notice this image on Linkedin – it was posted by someone in an industry poised to benefit significantly from the technology. What astounded me was the absolutism of the statement. Even if a technology doesn’t emerge, it’s a far more useful life and business strategy to have an open mind to new possibilities.

There’s 3 simple reasons I think Blockchain will become a vital layer in our lives.

(1) It solves a real problem: It allows us to transmit things of value (like currency) without making a copy and removes the need for traditional intermediaries. We can finally trade with each other online using cryptography to create trust and transparency/anonymity.

(2) The technology has proven use cases: It has already been proven to ‘work‘ with crypto currencies. While it faces technology hurdles including excessive energy usage, a poor user experience and slow transaction speed – these are problems many similar technologies, like the early internet faced as well. Dial-up internet anyone?

(3) There’s a huge amount of financial and human capital going into it: The sheer investment of intellectual capacity and money flowing into the space almost guarantees that problems with it will be solved and new ways of employing the technology will be found.

In fact, that’s how it always happens. Cars today are very different from cars in 1920. The internet is a very different beast today compared to when we browsed on Netscape. And it’s always the three factors above which are required to keep a new technology from disappearing.

Blockchain isn’t Blockchain, rather, it will become something somewhat different from what we see and experience now. With the prize so big – it has potential to topple some of the worlds biggest industries, and so many people engaged in inventing the desired functionality, we can be certain it won’t go away. Historically, making a technology work smoothly is where the biggest financial wins usually come from.

 

The Hustle Hoax

I came across this article recently discussing the Startup Hustle Bubble which is occurring in many entrepreneurial circles. The title said that working 9-5 is for losers. I tend to agree, but in the opposite direction than many of the Silicon Valley disciples espouse. They promote the 18 hour work day, I reckon that’s a better number for the week, only kidding, but not by much. To save you reading it, the proposition of the so called Hustlers goes like this:

  • Workaholism is a desirable life choice
  • To succeed you must give up everything (depends how you define success)
  • Out grind, outwork and out hustle everyone
  • A cottage industry of Hustle conferences are emerging
  • There’s even a Hustle Jesus – otherwise known as Gary V, that hustlers genuinely worship
  • Then there was some wonderful counter claims by the journalist.

Here’s a few things worth considering:

Firstly, there is no doubt work is required to get results in anything, but there is no evidence that working a crazy hours makes people any richer – if that’s the goal. I’d add to this that most of the people I know with incredible financial wealth, didn’t hustle all day and night, they used their brains, took calculated risks, saved, invested and compounded small advantages over time. But you know what they did more than anything else? They got others to work the hours for them and arbitraged their wages. It’s how capital works. Capital wins, capital always wins simply because each individual will only ever have 24 hours to give.

It’s also worth remembering that only thing we can never earn back in life is time. No amount of money will buy it back, your kids (if you have any) will only be young once and they’d rather have your time, than toys. We all know that money doesn’t lead to more happiness over a certain threshold. But mostly we should always be driven by our own personal objectives, when it comes to what we sacrifice. It’s vital we don’t get caught up in ‘fashion’ or the goals of others who a vested interest in the amount of hours we put in anything.

If you want more life hacks – then you’ll totally dig my new book The Lessons School Forgot. By the way, I went surfing on Tuesday, had a two hour nap today and I still got all my work done!

Why I choose people over profit

I’m currently working on a TV  show with some major producers and media stations. I’ve teamed up with someone to make this a reality, and quite frankly the concept is strong – first of it’s kind globally and I know it is going to rock. Put it this way, it’s something the world needs right know a lot more than learning how to cook a soufflé or renovate a bedroom – as much as I love cake and nice houses, I care about peoples futures much more. This show once made, will help everyone who watches it future proof their lives.

During discussions with various people, it has been mooted that they want to do it, but might need to bring in their own people. You can guess the line…. get famous hosts and all the rest.. Which, for this concept isn’t necessary – it’s something different, it’s not not about shiny famous people. I was told at some point in the development process I might have to choose between supporting my team and people, or making the project work. And here’s what I said:

I’m loyal to people, not projects or profits. If that means a project might fall over, that’s fine by me, projects come and go, I value loyalty far more than a project or some profit.

Maybe I’m crazy, maybe I’ve missed out in the past by having this philosophy?

But here’s what I know, if the project is strong enough, we’ll find people who’ll work with us and our chosen team. In any case, the project has more chance of succeeding when the team is pumped, keen to work together and put their hearts in it because they believe in each other.

Only once we look after each other, is there ever enough to share around.

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Join me in Melbourne on June 20th and get your mind around ‘The Lessons School Forgot’. 

I’ll be doing a talk on how to hack your way to a radical future, and answer all the questions you might have about finding a path to independence. It’s going to be a great night.

Click here to reserve your Free seat. 

See you then, Steve. 

Why we need to start before we finish

There’s something interesting entrepreneurs and technologists can take from rock bands. When playing live of stage and someone in the band makes a mistake, they don’t stop, they just keep on playing. When rehearsing, it’s important to play the song right through to the end, regardless of mistakes. The only way to practice, is to do it as if you’re on stage. The only way to get good on stage, is to have the courage to get on it before you are ready. The only way to get good on stage is to improve on stage, not in the backyard, rehearsal room or garage. Successful bands take gigs where no one might show up and they all start with exactly zero fans. In other words, we need to start before we are finished. We finish the work live, in market. In fact, the work never finishes, but it only really starts when once we have shipped a product.

The band Guns n Roses has a great story about their most famous song Sweet Child o’ Mine. They had the riff and the first part of the song down, it was sounding good and then they got to a part of the song for which there was no other music written, and no lyrics either. The it happened – Axle started singing:

‘Where do we go – Where do we go…. Oh, Where do we go now?’

He was literally talking to the band, saying geez, what’s next for this song. And through the process of doing, and making and asking, the solution was inside the question itself. That moment became the bridge, the missing part of the song. It worked with the other lyrics without him realizing it at first and lead its way nicely into what I think is the best guitar solo of all time. But of course, unless they started playing it before it was complete, it might never have been finished.

The startups we found, the technology we invent, and our own futures are a lot like that. Searching for perfection instead of progress is what stops us most. Some times all we really need to do is start, and believe that we’ll find the path of ‘where we go next’ once we start moving.

If you’re wondering where to go next, come join me in Melbourne on June 20th for my book launch of  ‘The Lessons School Forgot’. l’ll be doing a talk on the future, and answer all the questions you might have. It’s going to be a great night.

Click here to reserve your Free seat. 

See you then, Steve. 

We’re all trapped – The dark side of the APPOCALYPSE

Today Apple started it’s WWDC17 with a parody of what our modern world might be like if the app store went down. They called it the APPOCALYPSE – It’s worth watching if you haven’t seen it yet. It had a lot of detractors, many for good reason. I’m not even sure if Apple are laughing at us, or haven’t realised the gravity of their proposition? But I think most people missed the dark side of our reality.

We are living deep inside a technology trap. 

In 1978 technology historian James Bourke explained this vital concept with this video. For much of the industrial age we’ve all been living in a world we know little about. We’re all eking out a living via micro specialised gigs which have little to do with sustaining life. If the lights went out, few of us would be able to survive very long on our own. Once the stores are empty, where would we get our food, water, medicine, heating, cooling and other essentials from? Even if we had the skills of a renaissance person, there wouldn’t be enough time to gather the resources needed for mere survival.

But today, we are much deeper in the hole than that. We could, as a pre internet society probably muster up enough people with enough physical skills and knowledge to rebuild a bootstrapped society. But today, much of our critical infrastructure is buried deep inside a technological grid few people understand, and no one understands entirely. We are trapped. In the pre-internet based technology trap, the system wasn’t singular, the traps were at least geographically isolated. Today, they are all inextricably linked.

The most warped thing about this, is that it resides in the hands of a few private global internet giants. Their primary interest is to serve their shareholders, not society or end users. Users being the operative word here, we rely on them like a dealer, we show up for our digital high, just to be able to function on any given day. I’m not sure if calling us users is by design or coincidence, but I’m sure they’ve got the gear and we’ve got little choice but to take it.

This is another reminder that we need greater distribution of wealth and critical digital infrastructure. But the truth is we can’t control this. There is little we can do about it the foibles of the system. But what we can do is invest in ourselves so that we de-risk our own economic future. We can acquire the skills and resources of self reliance. Now more than ever, we can spread our personal financial risk beyond the hands of a single financial overlord – otherwise known as a boss.

If you’re interested in making yourself future proof, come join me in Melbourne on June 20th and get your mind around ‘The Lessons School Forgot’

I’ll be doing a talk on how to hack your way to a radical future, and answer all the questions you might have about finding a path to independence. It’s going to be a great night.

Click here to reserve your Free seat. 

See you then, Steve. 

Why you shouldn’t fear a robot version of you

Some robots are getting so ridiculously good – you can literally code, or should I say ‘train‘ them, by moving their arms and legs. You show them what to do like you would a child. The Baxter robot by Rethink Robotics is an example of this pictured above. In addition to this Natural Language Processing is getting so good, the Google AI, can understand 95 percent of verbal requests and process accurate search results as if it was typed. Within 10 years, we’ll be able to talk and communicated with A.I.’s, the same way we could with humans on many tasks.

The obvious next step is to add the 2 together more deliberately – the physical Robot, and the Artificial Intelligence. We’ll have human like devices with both the physical dexterity and mental capacity of their flesh and blood creators. This is causing a lot of concern around the world for employment. Personally I think there is a lot of upside would should be exploring as well.

Imagine, there was a robot that could copy our skills exactly, down to the minute detail. Match our physical behaviours and our human interactions. Learn from us, and literally match the way we would talk, interact, move and decide what to do next. Even match our physical style and processes on the job (without the mishaps!) An artificial version of us. Well, to me this could be a great economic opportunity for many people. Say you work in aged care, or phone sales, and you are of course, a gun at what you do. All of a sudden you could go out and train robots to operate in your personal style – teach the robot your human touch and skills which you have become renowned for within your organisation. All of a sudden you could entrepreneurially replicate yourself for revenue. A human style robot who behaves just like the awesome Lisa has done to be employee of the month a zillion times. All that hard work you’ve done over the years to hone your skills and build your reputation in your job, becomes your opportunity. You can replicate yourself and what makes you special and good at your gig, and become the beneficiary of all your years of hard work.

“I’ve trained and sold 36 Lisa robots this year” 

A revenue source someone waiting tables never thought they’d have. If you think about it, there was a time when musicians and actors never thought they’d be able to replicate their work for revenue either. They too once had to be in the room to earn money doing what they did. Technology it turns out, can be a great equalizer of opportunity.

Blog readers in Melbourne – I’m inviting you as a reader to The Lessons School Forgot – Live – to celebrate the launch of my new book. 

Hope to see you there, Steve.